PITTSBURGH - According to the Steelers’ official website, the team released five-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison Saturday afternoon after being unable to convince him to take a substantial pay cut.
The move frees up about $5.1 million of 2013 salary cap room for a team that previously was only a few million dollars under the cap, but leaves a major void in a defense that depends on its outside linebackers to generate sacks and turnovers.
Harrison and his agent, Bill Parise, spent much of the week trying to work out a deal in which Harrison would restructure the remaining two seasons of a contract that was due to pay him $6.57 million in 2013 and $7.57 million in 2014. But no deal could be reached, and the Steelers chose to part ways with one of the best defensive players in their history.
In the post on the Steelers' official website, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team has informed Harrison and that the team “appreciates all of his efforts and wish him the best.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was also quoted on the website post as saying, “James has played a major role in the success of this organization during his time in Pittsburgh. I appreciate everything he has done in my six years as head coach and wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
Harrison was originally signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent on April 22, 2002. During his time with the Steelers, Harrison started 95 of 131 games and registered 64 sacks to rank fourth in franchise history.
Harrison, who will be 35 next season, plans to keep playing, and Parise said Friday that, if the Steelers cut ties with him, he would immediately focus on securing a new deal with another team.
Unless the Steelers draft an outside linebacker in April, backups Jason Worilds or Chris Carter would replace Harrison, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who was cut four times -- three times by the Steelers -- before finally landing an NFL job.
Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this article.