pittsburgh steelers-james harrison

No one in the NFL is immune from single-minded front-offices looking to clear cap space or roster spots, but you might have thought James Harrison was pretty close. The veteran linebacker has played 14 of his 15 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, reaching five Pro Bowls, emerging as a team leader and collecting a franchise-record 80.5 sacks. He’s one of the most accomplished and adored Steelers players of this century.

But on Saturday, the Steelers needed a roster spot for right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who was returning from suspension, and they found one by releasing Harrison.

And so just like that, one of the best players in recent Steelers history is a free agent. Harrison’s agent told ESPN that the linebacker, who has battled injuries this season, has no hard feelings toward the Steelers and hopes to find a new team. At 38 years old he is one of the NFL’s oldest players, but his conditioning is legendary, and the Steelers figured only nine months ago that he was worth a two-year contract.

Already numerous fans and analysts are speculating that Harrison could land with the team Pittsburgh seems likely to meet in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots.

Pittsburgh’s decision to release Harrison really underscores just how brutal the NFL can be. Being a franchise legend doesn’t prevent you from being dumped with two weeks left in the season as your team cruises toward the playoff.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.