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Steelers in no hurry to re-sign Harrison...but they might

By Gerry Dulac 6 years ago

 

The Steelers did not bat an eye when Jason Worilds retired, even though it surprised nearly everyone in the organization. They did not immediately jump into free agency and find a veteran backup to fill the void until another young edge-rusher could be drafted.

That’s because they have a backup plan in place.

James Harrison.

The Steelers have not re-signed the former NFL defensive player of the year, who came out of retirement to play in 12 games for them last season on a one-year deal. But that doesn’t mean they won’t at some point, though it likely will be later rather than sooner.

That is why Harrison proclaimed after the season that he was headed out of town to begin training for 2015. He is thinking he will play this season, even at age 37, and this time he wants to be in shape to do so.

And the Steelers are banking on Harrison being available because he said he doesn’t want to leave his kids and go play for another team. They are going to take him at his word that the only place he will play is Pittsburgh.

The Steelers are in no hurry to re-sign Harrison because 1) he doesn’t need to participate in OTAs or even most of training camp, and 2) they don’t want him to put his body through all that. The grind of a regular season is tough enough, especially at 37. Adding in OTAs and training camp only makes it worse.

So the Steelers will probably wait until the summer to re-sign Harrison, much like they did last year with defensive end Brett Keisel. Meantime, Harrison wants to be in shape if and when the moment comes, unlike last season when it took him nearly a month to drop the extra weight he had accumulated and get into condition.

All that being said, the Steelers will not bring Harrison back to be their starting right outside linebacker, even though he started the final four games in 2014. That job belongs to Jarvis Jones, who enters his third season and will be given every opportunity to prove why he was a No. 1 pick.

The Steelers have every intention of drafting an edge-rushing linebacker in April. And they re-signed Arthur Moats to a three-year deal to be their left outside linebacker for now. If they re-sign Harrison, that would give them four outside linebackers.

And that’s not counting Howard Jones, a training-camp standout as a free-agent rookie who spent last season on the practice squad; or even Jordan Zumwalt, last year’s sixth-round pick who could get a look at outside linebacker.

Just because they haven’t signed Harrison doesn’t mean they wont. After all, what’s the rush?