The Pittsburgh Steelers will once again have James Harrison on their defense, but this time he could be playing a different but still very important role.
On Sunday, the team’s outside linebacker decided to return for another season. Harrison had retired from football last offseason but was coaxed back when the Steelers suffered a rash of injuries and were left shorthanded on defense.
Leading up to Sunday’s decision, Harrison had been wavering between returning to the Steelers or following longtime defensive coach Dick LeBeau to the Tennessee Titans.
Harrison said it would not be an easy decision.
“The opinions of my support team are split, but for me, my love for the man who both started, and made my career what it is, is undeniable,” Harrison wrote on Instagram. “There are no words that I can find that would do justice for everything Dick LeBeau has done for me & my career and nothing can compare to that!”
He continued, “I also have a great amount of love for Steelers Nation & the Steelers organization. I’m going to pray on this and let God guide me in the right direction.”
Harrison later used Instagram to announce his decision, posting a picture of himself signing his new contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Real happy to have James stay,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Sunday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. “This offseason James has been great with our young defenders and particularly our linebackers. I think he’s taken on a mentorship role and he seems to really be enjoying it. Plus we think he can still help us on the field.”
It isn’t clear if James Harrison would be starting for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Colbert said there would be an “open competition” at the position, with Harrison possibly taking over if Jarvis Jones should falter.
“I think he has starting abilities,” Colbert said. “I think you have to be careful for any type of player at that age save a quarterback.”
Though 36 is normally considered over the hill for a linebacker, James Harrison could still have an important position to fill with the Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL.com noted. The team is in need of a pass rusher after Jason Worilds announced his retirement, and Harrison’s leadership could be key as the team transitions way from LeBeau.
There have also been rumors that the Pittsburgh Steelers could have something more planned for James Harrison, which could eventually include a coaching position with the team.
[Image via Pittsburgh Sporting News]