James Harrison’s snarling tenacity made the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker one of the NFL’s most intimidating players for nearly a decade.
Big hits — some legal, some not so much — also turned the outspoken five-time Pro Bowler, who starred at Coventry and Hoban high schools and Kent State University, into a focal point for a league-wide crackdown on helmet-to-helmet contact.
Harrison’s outlaw image made him beloved in Pittsburgh but reviled elsewhere. His onerous contract, however, no longer worked for a team with serious salary cap issues. The Steelers released the former Defensive Player of the Year on Saturday when the two sides could not agree on a more cap-friendly deal.
“It’s been a great run but all good things must come to a end,” Harrison posted on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon. “Thank you Steelers Nation I will miss you all!”
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert and Harrison’s agent Bill Parise had spent the last few days trying to iron out a new deal but couldn’t reach any common ground. Harrison was entering the final two years of a $51 million extension he signed in 2009 and was scheduled to make $6.57 million in 2013.
Instead, Harrison — who turns 35 in May — will find himself looking for work for the first time since he became a fixture on the right side of Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense in 2006.
Harrison is the first cap move by the Steelers this offseason as they try to get under the $123 million salary cap by Tuesday, when the new league year begins. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker Lawrence Timmons have restructured their contracts to help get Pittsburgh under the cap number but Colbert told reporters after the Steelers finished a disappointing 8-8 in 2012 “terminations” would also be necessary.
“Sooner or later you have to pay the debt and you never want to get to a point where you have to gut your team and start over because we have to compete for a championship every year,” Colbert said in January.
The Steelers hope they have Harrison’s replacement in 24-year-old Jason Worilds, who had five sacks last season.
AFL legend Saimes dies
Canton native George Saimes, regarded as one of the American Football League’s best safeties and a member of the Buffalo Bills’ Wall of Fame, died after a lengthy battle with leukemia. He was 71. Saimes’ daughter, Linda Durley, said her father died Friday night at a hospital in Canton.
Selected by Buffalo in the sixth round of the 1963 draft, Saimes spent seven seasons with the Bills, where he helped the team win back-to-back AFL championships in 1964-65.
Saimes was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and, in 1970, was selected to the all-time AFL defensive team. He was known as a hard-hitting tackler, who finished with 22 interceptions in 121 career games.
Saimes is survived by his wife, Betsy, three daughters and eight grandchildren. A funeral service has been scheduled for Wednesday at the Community Christian Church in North Canton.
A source said cornerback Leodis McKelvin reached an agreement to re-sign with the Buffalo Bills. … A source said the San Diego Chargers agreed in principle to a four-year contract with kicker Nick Novak. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because details are still being finalized. … Fullback Darrel Young and tight end Logan Paulsen agreed to three-year contracts to remain with the Washington Redskins. … Linebacker Junior Galette agreed to a three-year contract to remain with the New Orleans Saints. … The New York Jets re-signed linebacker Josh Mauga to a one-year contract.