Harrison was reportedly choosing between Pittsburgh and Tennessee. Even though his former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is now in Tennessee, Pittsburgh always seemed like the most logical choice for Harrison. Pittsburgh is the better of the two teams. They offer the easiest path to playing time, as he’d be stuck behind big ticket free agents Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo. Pittsburgh has a real lack of talent at 3-4 outside linebacker following Jason Worilds’ retirement and Harrison should be the starter opposite the inconsistent Jarvis Jones. A return to Pittsburgh also meant a return to the team where he’s played 10 of his 11 career seasons and would give him a chance to add to his Steeler legacy.
Given all of that, this is the right move by Harrison and a great move by the Steelers, who would have been stuck starting career reserve Arthur Moats opposite Jones with little to no proven depth at the position. Harrison gets added to an outside linebacker crew that should feature him, Jones, Moats, and likely an early round rookie. The Steelers’ depth problems at outside linebacker were why the Steelers re-sign Harrison last season in the first place. Harrison was out of the league to start last season, but he rejoined the Steelers for week 4 after they needed help at the rush linebacker position and he proved to be a huge pickup, grading out 10th at his position on just 439 snaps. No one played fewer snaps at his position and graded out better.
He’s going into his age 37 season so the end of the road is right around the corner, but he proved last season that he still has something left in the tank. He has graded out above average in every season in Pro Football Focus’ history (since 2007), including last season and a 2013 season with the Bengals where he was Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked 4-3 outside linebacker on just 383 snaps as a base run stopping outside linebacker. No one played fewer snaps and graded out better at the position that season, making it two different seasons that could be said about him and at two different positions. Harrison will get more than the minimum this season, but he deserves it and the Steelers are still hardly breaking the bank for him. This deal is worth 2.75 million over 2 years with nothing guaranteed beyond a 500K signing bonus so it’s low risk and pretty much all upside.