With his 38th birthday looming around the corner, Steelers linebacker James Harrison is faced with a familiar question, to return for a 14th season or retire.
“I’m not ready to make any type of decision.” Harrison told the Pittsburgh Post Gazzette. It’s a decision that may be out of Harrison’s hand. The Steelers could cut the aging Harrison who is due $1.5 million next season & put faith in the sometimes stagnant development of other outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Harrison, surely has made his case for his return if deemed wanted by the Steelers. Harrison was able to lead all Steelers outside linebackers with five sacks while also logging 40 tackles and 1 interception while being the oldest member of the Steelers defense.
According to Pro Football Focus Harrison scored the highest pass rush score (20.5) & second highest defensive score (28.0) on the Steelers defense. Impressive numbers when compared to his potential replacement in Jarvis Jones who only scored a 3.9 in the pass rushing grade.
Although it can be argued that these numbers do not tell the whole story as three of Harrison’s five sacks came in one game against the Indianapolis Colts and even amidst durability concerns, Harrison remains one of the key contributors of a transitional Steelers defense. A defense that finds itself uncertain on whether to embrace the youth movement or hang on to aging veterans.
Much like the identity of the team, more questions than answers remain on the return of James Harrison.