There’s nothing wrong with being upset about James Harrison being released. There’s nothing wrong with being upset about him not taking less money to stay with the Steelers either. The decision the Pittsburgh Steelers made this past weekend is not one that fans will simply say “ho-hum” to and go on with their day.
Harrison made himself into a Steelers legend and one that probably deserved a better fate but football in the professional sense is a business today more than ever before and sometimes fans struggle with that.
What I have no problem struggling with is the decision Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin made this weekend. By releasing Harrison, the Steelers will save $5.1 million dollars against the salary cap. This will now allow them to meet the league’s rule of being under the cap of $123 million by Tuesday.
With Harrison unwilling to take a pay-cut, the Steelers’ hand was forced.
Harrison’s numbers have dropped significantly over the last three seasons especially as it pertains to getting to the quarterback. Paying a 35-year old linebacker with a bad back and knee issues just wasn’t something the Steelers could or should have done.
Was Harrison the best right outside linebacker the Steelers had prior to his release? Of course he was and it isn’t even close. Basically what the team is left with is Jason Worilds and Chris Carter. Carter is unproven and Worilds has injury issues of his own despite tying for the team lead in 2012 with six sacks.
Worilds is what I call ‘decent’ in the pass rushing department and is downright average against the run and at the OLB position, being average doesn’t cut it.
While I’m not ready to say the Steelers will now choose an OLB in the first round of the NFL Draft, I’m certainly willing to say that the chances have grown exponentially over the last 48 hours. The Steelers draft history in regards to outside backers isn’t exactly glowing so that does worry me a bit.
No team in the NFL has re-structured more contracts over the last three years than the Steelers have and that needs to stop. Re-building, re-loading, whatever you want to call it, is happening in Pittsburgh and I think there could be more to come.
The risk of keeping Harrison on the roster was just too great simply because of the injury issues. This team cannot afford to have that much money sitting on the sidelines again as they did with LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu last year.
Seeing our favorites and guys that contributed to Super Bowl victories go away under any circumstance is never easy, but it’s part of life in the NFL today. Mourn the fact he is gone but relish in the fact the Steelers have to start doing things for today and for days to come as well.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.