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James Harrison unclaimed on waivers, is free agent

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have moved on from James Harrison.

The two-time All-Pro linebacker and franchise sack leader was released on Saturday, making way for tackle Marcus Gilbert. Harrison went unclaimed on waivers and became a free agent on Monday, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

After years of production in the Steel City, Harrison barely saw the field in 2017. The 39-year-old played only 40 snaps in five games, ceding starts and snaps to rookie linebacker T.J. Watt, among others. Harrison last played in Week 14 when he logged 11 snaps in Pittsburgh's win over Baltimore. Before that, he had not played since Week 7.

Harrison's role this season was always something of a mystery. In the offseason, Pittsburgh linebackers coach Joey Porter, who played with Harrison, said the veteran would become a "safety net" and a "relief pitcher." Steelers coach Mike Tomlin intimated in October that Pittsburgh would use Harrison as a closer going forward, coming in at opportune intervals of close games to cause chaos. However, as the season wore on, Harrison's appearances were fewer and farther between.

Harrison's foray into free agency could be temporary, or it could signal an end to Harrison's improbable career, one that might eventually live on in Canton.

If this is the end, Harrison leaves Pittsburgh with 82.5 career sacks, eight interceptions and 570 tackles. Among active players, he is eighth in sacks. His 80.5 sacks in Pittsburgh are a franchise-best. As recently as 2016, Harrison led the Steelers in season sacks (5).

The veteran linebacker will be best remembered in Pittsburgh and league-wide for his tide-turning 100-yard interception return at the end of the first half of the Steelers' win in Super Bowl XLIII.

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