At age 38 (he’ll be 39 in late spring), Steelers linebacker James Harrison is still playing in the NFL. Harrison has been such a good player that, despite his age, the linebacker is now signing an extension to remain in Pittsburgh.
Harrison signed a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the Steelers that will keep him with the team through the 2018 season and past his 40th birthday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Sticking in Pittsburgh makes a ton of sense for both parties involved here. Harrison, a 14-year NFL veteran, has excelled in his lengthy Steelers career, tallying a total of 81.5 sacks. Despite Pittsburgh’s attempts to draft and develop a successor to take Harrison’s place on defense, the five-time Pro Bowler has fended off all attempts of replacement, managing to remain an effective player well into his late-30s.
The two-time Super Bowl champion has totaled at least five sacks in each of his past three seasons, defying age and virtually every law of science. Harrison is a freak, and we mean that in the best way possible.
Harrison made it clear he wasn’t retiring earlier this offseason after the Steelers lost to the Patriots in the playoffs. He had a solid showing in this year’s playoffs, most notably drawing a controversial holding call on Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher in Pittsburgh’s victory over Kansas City.
The linebacker’s only attempt at latching on with another NFL team didn’t go as planned. In 2013, Harrison spent a season with Pittsburgh’s division rival Bengals. While in Cincinnati, the linebacker couldn’t quite put it together, totaling just two sacks. Harrison was a still an influential player in his brief Bengals career, but he wasn’t half the player he was while donning the gold and black. He announced his retirement in 2014 but eventually joined the Steelers less than three weeks later
Harrison’s age and production in Pittsburgh made this signing inevitable. The former undrafted free agent, who began his career as a member of Pittsburgh’s practice squad before joining the Ravens (where he was shipped overseas to play in the NFL Europe League as a member of the Rhein Fire) and eventually making his way back to Pittsburgh, defied all odds and became a superstar.
Re-signing Harrison keeps the Steelers’ all-time sacks leader in Pittsburgh, where he’ll look to remain a valuable pass-rushing asset in the linebacking corps. The move also ensures Pittsburgh’s defense maintains a semblance of continuity, as the Steelers look to win the AFC North in back-to-back seasons.