Decisions, decisions. Some made, some pending. That's the way it is for NFL teams as the calendar creeps toward the end of March, and what's also true at this time of year is there are some things that are most interesting in theory.
One of the interesting-in-theory issues right now involving the Pittsburgh Steelers has to do with whether to bring James Harrison back to the team.
In 2008 Harrison was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and for an encore that season authored one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history when he intercepted a Kurt Warner pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown on a day ending with the Steelers winning their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
In 2013, four seasons later, Harrison and the Steelers couldn't agree on a reduced salary and so he was released after 10 seasons and 64 sacks. Following an 11th NFL season, in Cincinnati, where he was mis-cast in the Bengals' 4-3 defense, Harrison, who will be 36 in May, was released. That led to Harrison's appearance on an NFL Network broadcast during which he expressed an interest in returning to the Steelers to finish his career where it started.
"We're never going to close the door on any possibilities at this point," said General Manager Kevin Colbert, "and especially with a guy who is a huge part of your success. With that being said, we have to see what is best for our team as we continue to go through this free agency period. There might be other outside linebackers who could help us as well. Like I said, we're just going to continue to look and see as to what's out there. As long as James is available, (bringing him back) obviously remains an option, but it's something that we have to decide if it's the best thing for the organization at that point."
DEPTH AT OLB
The Steelers are in the market for depth at outside linebacker, because they faced an either-or decision with regard to LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds.
"It was going to be hard to be able to keep both guys if the monies got to where they were," said Colbert. "I was asked (whether we could keep both guys) earlier in the winter. Well yes, we could have, but at what cost to the rest of what we wanted to do? When we really started to analyze where it was going to be, we felt free safety was going to be the first target. Once we were able to take care of that, it was going to be hard to be able to keep both LaMarr and Jason.
"Jason is coming off a highly-productive year and LaMarr wasn't. We had to make a tough call. Any time you release a guy who's part of your success, it's never easy, especially when you think that player still has some football left in him, as we do believe with LaMarr."
The Steelers secured Worilds' services through a transition tender of $9.754 million, and that number will remain on the team's salary cap for 2014 unless a long-term deal that lowers it is worked out. Team management is interested in working out a long-term deal, but no progress has been made on that yet.
"Once Jason was secured with the transition tag, then we just went about our business with guys who weren't secured, other unrestricted free agents," said Colbert. "We'll see where it goes with the rest of free agency and the draft and see if it makes sense for both sides. When we use the tag, we always use it with the thought of trying to get the player signed to a long-term deal. That is certainly our hope, and I believe that's Jason's wish as well. So usually when you both have the same goal, it will work out at some point."
REPLACING COTCHERY WITH MOORE
The other either-or move the team made was a recent one – the signing of Lance Moore to answer the loss of Jerricho Cotchery to the Carolina Panthers.
"I would say (losing Cotchery) was a disappointment because he was a productive guy for us and really found his niche and had a comfort zone with Ben, which was nice," said Colbert. "Other people saw that same production, and they were able to do some things financially that we weren't able to do. Jerricho had to make some decisions. He also had a little bit of an attraction to that area because of where he went to college (North Carolina State) and where his wife is from. You respect that and understand that. We wish him luck."
That opened a spot for Moore, and he and the Steelers quickly came to an agreement on a two-year contract.
"We lost two veteran receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho, and I think Lance gives us a little bit of what each of those guys could give us," said Colbert. "We knew we weren't going to be able to keep both Jerricho and Emmanuel, so we looked at veteran receivers to have available. Lance got cut (by the Saints) and all of a sudden was in the mix. He's a very smart, experienced receiver who knows how to work in the slot. He'll be 31 in August, so there is still some good football left in Lance Moore and we're excited he was available to us when we went to sign him."