Early this morning, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison said goodbye to Steelers fans via Twitter, indicating that the Steelers organization will be releasing him from the team. Insiders have known that, with negotiation talks breaking down, Harrison was on the cusp of finding a new team to play with should he continue in the National Football League. Still, Harrison's message left many fans wishing life in the NFL was an easier pill to swallow.
"It's been a great run but all good things must come to a end. Thank you Steelers Nation I will miss you all!", tweeted Harrison.
Head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed the transaction. "James has played a major role in the success of this organization during his time in Pittsburgh." Tomlin added, "I appreciate everything he has done in my six years as head coach and wish him nothing but the best in the future."
Fans aren't as concerned about the salary cap situation in Pittsburgh as they are with the players. And Harrison's release isn't simply about the Steelers' current financial status. Harrison's performance in 2012 was hampered by knee issues but was still under par for the veteran. After five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, Harrison logged only six sacks in 2012. It was his lowest record since being named the starter at his position in 2007. Even ardent fans could tell that Harrison had lost a step, but were hoping that he'd improve in 2013.
Harrison played 131 games with the Steelers. In 2008, Harrison was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. Over that time Harrison had 64 sacks, 29 forced fumbles and five interceptions. In eight playoff stints, Harrison had 6.5 sacks. During Super Bowl XLIII, Harrisons 100-yard interception for a touchdown in the first half aided the Steelers in beating the Arizona Cardinals and becoming champions. It was a play that 'Steeler Nation' still talks about.
Harrison will be high on the free agent market and will have teams fighting for him before the 2013 league year begins on Tuesday, March 12. The New Orleans Saints are retooling their defense into the 3-4 scheme. Rival Baltimore Ravens may look to Harrison to fill free agent Paul Kruger's position. Other teams would love to have him on their roster as well.
With Harrison moving on, 2010 second round pick Jason Worilds will be asked to step into big shoes in 2013. In 2012, Worilds often stepped in for linebacker LaMarr Woodley and set a personal career high of five sacks. Worilds is entering his final year of a rookie contract and has started 10-of-42 games with the Steelers with a total of ten sacks.
- Are you on Facebook? Follow Christina Rivers or on Twitter @3Rivers_Writer
- Read Christina's articles on CBSLocal/Sports- Pittsburgh (KDKA) and at 'The Beam' in Pittsburgh
Get news on other NFL teams and football on Examiner.com