Former Pittsburg Steelers linebacker James Harrison, currently a free agent, announced via Facebook his decision to retire from the NFL. The 36 year-old Ohio native began his NFL career in 2002 as an undrafted rookie with the Steelers, after attending and playing for Kent State University. After being cut by the Baltimore Ravens, James was signed by the Steelers in 2004.
James was released by the Steelers in 2013 for reasons relating to the player’s salary, and signed with the Cincinatti Bengals soon after. Harrison remained with the Bengals for less than a year, being released in early 2014.
The linebacker announced his retirement only days after visiting with the Arizona Cardinals, while attempting to find another team. James’ season with the Bengals was his least productive year in the NFL since early in his career. In a statement, Harrison explained his reasons for retiring. “My love for my family and the need to be there for them outweighs my desire to play the game”, says Harrison. “I have missed too many experiences with them because I devoted SO much time to my career.”
The five-time Pro Bowler won two Superbowl rings with the Steelers, in 2005 and 2008. James’ 10 years with the Steelers included four seasons as a backup, before finally becoming a starter at age 29. Harrison was a first-team All Pro twice, and won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2008.
Harrison’s statement expressed gratitude for his years in the NFL and for the teams that he called home throughout his 12 years playing professionally. “My love for the game isn’t strong enough to make up for missing one more birthday or first day of school. I am retiring as a man who is truly grateful for all of his blessings”, James’ statement reads. “I am sincerely thankful to the people who have supported me over the years, first and foremost my family, the Rooney family and my Steeler family, also Mr. Brown, the Bengals organization and fans, and last but FAR from least, Steeler Nation. Thank you.”
James Harrison’s decision to leave the NFL comes after the league began announcing its 2014 roster cuts, ends a career for James that was often overshadowed by public controversy and scandal. Harrison was arrested in 2008 following an incident involving James and his girlfriend. The player was charged with assaulting girlfriend Beth Tibbott after an argument, though all charges against Harrison were later dropped. Harrison also made headlines after a 2011 interview with Men’s Journal, making derogatory comments against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Despite the controversy, James ends his NFL career with an impressive record that includes what is often cited as one of the most memorable plays in Steelers history. During Superbowl XLIII, Harrison’s 100-yard touchdown return of an interception thrown before halftime was crucial to the Steelers’ victory.