The Steelers have been known for their top-notch defense for so long now that the word itself is synonymous with Pittsburgh. The team is aging, though, and while they're good year in and year out, they have slipped from time to time in the recent past. One big step that the Steelers want to take when it comes to keeping their top-ranked defense in tact is re-signing linebacker James Harrison, who has been a linchpin on his side of the ball since 2002.
There are two problems with this, and one of them isn't Harrison's tendency to get fined for illegal hits. The Steelers are in a tough place when it comes to the salary cap and, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley, Harrison isn't willing to reduce his contract.
Pittsburgh's best option is to get Harrison to reduce his $6.57 million salary for this year. But Harrison's agent indicated that the linebacker won't reduce his salary to stay with the Steelers. Harrison's preference is to restructure his contract to reduce his $10.03 million cap hit (likely freeing $3 million in space). But that would push more of a cap hit into 2014, the last year of Harrison's contract, in a year when the cap is expected to remain flat.
The Steelers don't really have anybody with experience to replace Harrison and, unless they draft someone, they'll need to keep him around. However, Harrison also turns 35 this season and he hasn't exactly been the beacon of health, missing eight games over the last two seasons.
Harrison's agent told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he knows his client wants to stay with the Steelers and the Steelers want to keep Harrison around and they're "working to try to make that happen."
If it doesn't happen before March 12, the Steelers will have a tough decision to make.