For those that may not know, Harrison has for years been one of the most hated linebackers in football because of his intensity, high level of play, and his reputation for "playing dirty". We aren't talking Ndamukong Suh level nastiness here, but enough to garner some unwanted attention from the league and his best friend, Commissioner Goodell. He isn't the kind of guy that would willingly stomp a mud hole in somebody after the whistle but he will sure make a guy pay in between them. In other words, Harrison was a beast.
I guess what bothers me the most about this is that Harrison, despite the injuries, lack of production, etc., he was still a fixture on the team. Together, him and LaMarr Woodley were probably one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL. Just the thought of Harrison, staring you down from the opposite side of the field, scared the [BLEEP] out of offenses around the league. And to let him go over money is always something that gets to me because I foolishly always think its a family affair and not a business when it comes to my Steelers. But that's exactly what it is...a business. Harrison said yesterday, "I definitely have three years left, possibly four, but I'm going where the wind blows. You obviously want to play for a Super Bowl contender, that's the first thing. Good weather, that wouldn't be a bad thing. ... I'm not closed to playing for any team or any area." James, if you are reading this, please go to the NFC. Please. I can't take watching you on another AFC team, or worse, a division rival.
The only thing I can relate this too is the last time one of my favorite Steeler linebackers left the team for free agency and signed with Carolina for one year before retiring...
On the horizon, it's only going to get murkier when the free agency period begins in two days. The Steelers have what most NFL "experts" consider to be the best free agent available in Mike Wallace. This was the same issue last year and his legend has only grown with another year under his belt.
My only criticism of Wallace has always been that he pass blocks like my grandma and last year, he showed he wasn't immune to the "uncatchable" ball. He had more drops in critical situations than I have seen since Limas Sweed. It was starting to get highly frustrating at times when a normally routine route on a third and eight or red zone opportunity turned into a field goal or giving it over on a punt. But still, Wallace has shown without a doubt that he was a big time player down the field. He is going to be missed if they can't find a suitable replacement in the draft, and frankly, there isn't anyone.
Keenan was a guy that I had a lot of hope for. He was a highly touted in 2009 when the Steelers drafted him but I think that his slower development and lack of interceptions has led to his potential departure. If I was to guess, I'm thinking you will see him suiting up next year for a division team, possibly the Browns or Ravens, which will suck, but is typical.
In other moves, the Steelers got Big Ben, Lawrence Timmons, and Antonio Brown all to restructure their contracts in order to add some cap space. Add that to the already reworked deals for LaMarr Woodley, Ike Taylor, and Willie Colon and the Steelers could have enough room to go after a couple guys in free agency. We always have a need on the O-line and with Harrison gone, there is a spot the might need some tweaking. Plus, you can't forget about Big Ben and his health issues lately. There is no denying the fact that quality backup QBs in this league are invaluable.
I'm a little more concerned with the draft though. The Steelers have shown that they are comfortable with older players but not committed to them by any means. The last few seasons have shown a want by the team to start getting younger and developing talent. The older guys have taken on the role of mentor, training their future replacements. I'm all for that and I'd like to see some aggressive draft strategies so that we might finally be able to fill holes we need with quality draft picks and guys that could one day be "the next ones" and become franchise type players.
Is it football season yet?