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Signing Harrison 'simple and easy'

Take a look at some of the best photos from the career of Steelers linebacker James Harrison.

Calling it "a simple and easy decision for us," Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed the signing of previously-retired James Harrison during his news conference today as one of the moves the Steelers have made in response to the loss of three defensive starters last Sunday night in Carolina.

Harrison, who most recently was in the team's practice facility on Friday, Sept. 5 to announce he formally was retiring as a member of the Steelers, was back early Tuesday morning to sign a contract and begin the work of re-acclimating himself to the team's defensive scheme.

Harrison was chosen by the Steelers as the most viable option to help compensate for the loss of Jarvis Jones, who was placed on the injured-reserve, designated-to-return list on Monday following surgery to repair the dislocated wrist he sustained in the victory over the Panthers.

"Jarvis Jones had wrist surgery, and we put him on IR-designated to return," said Tomlin. "We'll see how that goes. Right now, he's simply in the recovery phase, and we'll start visiting with him next week about the process of moving forward and coming back."

Because the Steelers placed Jones on the list before 4 p.m. on Monday, the earliest he could return to the field would for be the Monday night game on Nov. 17 at Tennessee against the Titans.

As for the rest of the injuries, Tomlin said, "Ike Taylor had forearm fracture surgery and had a plate put in his forearm. We'll keep him on the roster. We'll take a look at him week-to-week, but he's going to be out several weeks before we get into a hardcore discussion about his return. Ryan Shazier's knee injury is less significant. He's got a sprain. He can be characterized as out for this week, and we'll evaluate him at the top of next week."

Because the Steelers kept five inside linebackers and six cornerbacks on their initial 53-man roster, they had options already in place to compensate for the injuries to Shazier and Taylor. Not so much at outside linebacker, where Arthur Moats was the primary backup when the season opened, with Terence Garvin filling the role of inside-outside swing-man. Enter Harrison.

"We know James. James knows us," said Tomlin. "James understands how we desire to play defense. He understands the scheme. We're not going to assume that he's up-to-speed on the schematics. It's been over 12 months since he's been a part of us, and so we're going to respect that. His level of participation will be determined by what he can execute and his level of conditioning. We're simply going to play it by ear. It'll be no different than the process we went though in re-acclimating Brett Keisel into the fold."

Tomlin said Moats will start at right outside linebacker against the Buccaneers, and that no decisions will be made on how or if Harrison will be asked to contribute to the team until the Steelers get him on the practice field and determine his current conditioning and skill-set.

"We're going to give him snaps in practice and see how he takes to it," said Tomlin. "James is the type of guy who takes great pride in his workouts and his overall level of conditioning over a 12-month calendar. We'll just see where he is and let that be our guide."

As for the situation at cornerback, William Gay will move into the starting lineup to replace Taylor in the base 3-4 defense, but when the Steelers go to their nickel, Gay will move back to his normal spot inside and either Antwon Blake, Brice McCain, or B.W. Webb will play the outside cornerback spot.

"Antwon Blake was next up in the (Panthers) game, but we're not discounting what Brice McCain is capable of, we're not discounting what B.W. Webb is capable of," said Tomlin. "That's why we acquired him. We'll let those guys sort it out on the practice field."

As for Shazier's spot at inside linebacker, Sean Spence played well enough in Carolina to get the start against Tampa Bay, but as with all of the younger players in this equation, Vince Williams also will be considered for an increased role based on what happens during the week's practices.

"The way we ended the game last Sunday is how we start, but we're not going to close the door on any developments in terms of the divisions of labor as we put together the group for the necessary response to injuries," said Tomlin.

On other injury matters, Tomlin said, "Dri Archer practiced in a limited capacity last week, and we expect more participation from him starting tomorrow. Ramon Foster sustained an ankle injury in practice last week that didn't allow him to play in the game. He'll practice. We'll see his level of practice participation as he comes into the building, and obviously we'll leave the light on for both of those guys."

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