Report: Steelers not interested in Harrison

March, 26, 2013
3/26/13
10:30
AM ET

James Harrison's agent told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker hasn't closed the door on returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The feeling is apparently not mutual.

The Steelers have informed Harrison that they are no longer interested in bringing him back, a source told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This news should surprise no one. The Steelers gave Harrison a chance to remain with the team, and he refused to take a pay cut. For the Steelers, this is a good example to future players who balk at taking a salary reduction.

Even though the Steelers could use Harrison, which is why the team was negotiating a way for him to stay, Harrison still counts $4.93 million against the Steelers' salary cap this season. So you can understand why the Steelers don't want to use up more valuable cap space on a player who didn't want to compromise in the first place.

At this point, the Steelers are moving ahead with Jason Worilds, an underachieving 2009 second-round draft pick, in Harrison's spot. The team really doesn't have another option right now because of its current cap situation. Pittsburgh is $2.57 million under the cap, and barring an unexpected restructured contract, that leaves little space to sign a free agent or for its upcoming eight draft picks.

The Steelers will have to remain patient until after June 1. That's when the Steelers get the $5.5 million for releasing offensive lineman Willie Colon, who was designated as a June 1 cut.

By that time, free-agent pass-rushers such as Dwight Freeney (linked to Denver), Osi Umenyiora (expected to sign with Atlanta) and John Abraham (possibly to New England) will be gone. There will be others, perhaps Shaun Phillips, who will be sitting on the market in June. Phillips, 31, has had at least seven sacks in seven of his past eight seasons. The Steelers also had Cowboys free agent Victor Butler in for a visit, but he may not be available in 10 weeks.

Even though Harrison's return was always considered a long shot, many of the Steelers players had hoped something would get worked out.

"Obviously I want him back," Ryan Clark told the NFL Network on Monday. "Troy [Polamalu] and I, we debate every day on how to get him back. The intimidation factor, I don't know if you can get a guy to come in and initially bring it."

But based on the report, this reunion won't happen.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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