December 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) reacts as he greets Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs (left) at mid-field after their game at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers' coaches reportedly want to keep James Harrison

Much has been made about the Pittsburgh Steelers salary cap situation and who will be the first to go as the team tries to configure ways to get under the $121 million cap for the 2013 season.

The first name that is always mentioned as a cap casualty is linebacker James Harrison and it is understandable why.

December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) on the field against the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Cincinnati Bengals won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Harrison is going to be 35 years old, is coming off another injury and his production isn’t anywhere near what it used to be. In addition, Harrison is scheduled to make $6.6 million next season and over $7 million in 2014. He said recently through his agent that he’s not interested in taking a pay cut — though he would be open to restructuring his contract.

That’s not an option as it makes little sense to restructure a 35 year old player with diminishing skills.

All of that would lead you to believe that Harrison has played his last game in a Steelers uniform, but that may not be the case.

Especially if the Steelers coaches have their way.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ed Bouchette wrote on Sunday that both Larry Foote and Harrison could return next season.

Foote also had a good year. He had four sacks, 11 pressures, forced two fumbles and recovered two. He calls the defensive plays, taking over that role from his departed buddy James Farrior. Foote is 32 and a free agent, but the Steelers want him back and there’s a good chance he will sign a one-year contract. …

Harrison was held back by knee surgery that was curiously delayed until training camp after the issue kept him from participating in most of the spring drills. He missed the first three games and took at least half the season before he returned to form. He started the rest of the 13 games and tied for the sack lead with six. …

The coaching staff is counting on Harrison and (LaMarr) Woodley for 2013. Harrison’s salary could be an issue as the team tries to get under the cap, but the coaches would like him back at right outside linebacker.

Given what the Steelers have behind Harrison, it makes sense that the team would try and bring him back, but at what cost?

What other positions on the field must be sacrificed to bring back a 35-year old linebacker?

That’s the question that Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert must answer.

Does retaining Harrison cost the Steelers a chance at signing cornerback Keenan Lewis? Or does it prevent them from adding depth around the field as the Steelers are very thin at almost every position?

It’s nice that the coaches want to retain Harrison, but two things are clear

First of all, coaches have no control over personnel or salary cap issues.

Secondly, even if the Steelers wanted to, they can’t afford to pay him $6.6 million.

It will be interesting to see exactly how the Harrison situation plays out, but if the Steelers coaching staff has their way, No. 92 will be back in a Steelers uniform in 2013.

But given Harrison’s stance on not wanting to take a pay cut, I wouldn’t count on it.

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Tags: James Harrison Larry Foote Pittsburgh Steelers

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