James Harrison has decided that family time trumps his desire to play in the NFL at 40 years old.
On Monday morning, Harrison announced on Instagram that he is going to retire after 16 seasons. Harrison had initially said that he wanted to play in 2018 at the age of 40.
An undrafted rookie out of Kent State, Harrison was signed by the Steelers shortly after the 2002 NFL Draft. After being cut by the Steelers and several other teams, Harrison finally stuck on Pittsburgh’s roster in 2004, helping Pittsburgh win 15 regular season games that season as a backup outside linebacker and special teams standout. Harrison also served in that role in 2005 while helping the Steelers win their first Super Bowl in 26 years.
Harrison’s breakout season took place in 2007, when he recorded 8.5 sacks, 98 tackles, seven forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries to earn his first Pro Bowl selection. The man known as Deebo was the NFL’s best defensive player the following season, recording a franchise record 16.0 sacks while winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. He also made one of the greatest players in Super Bowl history: a 100-yard interception return for a score in Pittsburgh’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
Harrison earned three more Pro Bowl selections over the next three years while helping Pittsburgh capture the AFC championship in 2010. And after retiring following one season with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013, Pittsburgh coaxed him out of retirement several games into the 2014 season. Harrison helped the Steelers win that year’s division title while recording 5.5 sacks in four starts.
After recording a sack in both of Pittsburgh’s playoff games during the 2015 season, Harrison led the Steelers in sacks in 2016 while once again wreaking havoc on opposing offenses during that year’s postseason. He recorded 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a crucial forced fumble in the team’s wild card victory over Miami. The following week, Harrison recorded a fumble while forcing a pivotal holding call that helped Pittsburgh edge the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
But after receiving less than 40 snaps in Pittsburgh’s first 15 games of the 2017 season, Harrison asked for — and was granted — his release. He signed with the New England Patriots (the only team to reach out to him) and helped the Pats advance to Super Bowl LII.
Harrison retires with 80.5 sacks as a Steeler, the most in franchise history. He also retires with a whopping 33 forced fumbles nine fumble recoveries and eight interceptions.