The Pittsburgh Steelers released linebacker James Harrison, 34, when the two sides could not agree on a more salary-cap-friendly deal.
PITTSBURGH — James Harrison’s snarling tenacity made the Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker one of the league’s most intimidating players for nearly a decade.
Big hits — some legal, some not so much — also turned the outspoken five-time Pro Bowl performer into a focal point for a leaguewide crackdown on helmet-to-helmet contact.
Harrison’s outlaw image made him beloved in Pittsburgh and reviled elsewhere. But his contract no longer worked for a team with serious salary-cap issues. The Steelers released the league’s 2008 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. “Thank you Steelers Nation I will miss you all!”
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Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, had spent the past few days trying to create a new deal but couldn’t find common ground.
Harrison, 34, was entering the final two years of a $51 million extension he signed in 2009 and was scheduled to make $6.57 million this year.
Instead, Harrison 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.
“James has been an integral part of our success during his years in Pittsburgh and has helped us win two Lombardi trophies during that time,” Colbert said in a statement. “We appreciate all of his efforts and wish him the best.”
Harrison is the first cap move by the Steelers this offseason as they try to get under the $123 million salary cap by Tuesday.
Harrison finished the 2012 season with six sacks, tied for the team lead, as the Steelers ranked No. 1 in total defense for the fourth time since Harrison became a starter.
“James has played a major role in the success of this organization during his time in Pittsburgh,” coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement. “I appreciate everything he has done in my six years as head coach.”
Harrison was fined multiple times for hits to the head.
Feeling he was being persecuted by the league, Harrison called commissioner Roger Goodell a “crook” and a “devil” during an interview with Men’s Journal in early 2011.
• Cornerback Leodis McKelvin, 27, is staying in Buffalo. A source familiar with the negotiations said McKelvin agreed to a four-year contract worth slightly more than $20 million.
McKelvin was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Tuesday.
• Washington agreed to deals to bring back four players.
Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger agreed to a five-year contract, fullback Darrel Young and tight end Logan Paulsen each got three-year deals and linebacker Rob Jackson also reached terms.
Financial terms were not immediately available.
• The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens are trying to lower the $6 million salary of receiver Anquan Boldin, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, and it could lead to his release if talks do not progress, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation.
• Ex-Buffalo player George Saimes, regarded as one of the American Football League’s best safeties, died after a battle with leukemia. He was 71.
Saimes’ daughter, Linda Durley, said her father died Friday at a hospital in his hometown of Canton, Ohio.
Saimes, an exceptional tackler, was selected to the all-time AFL defensive team.