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Tomlin in no hurry for Harrison's decision to return to Steelers

| Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 9:27 a.m.
James Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, said his client's meeting with NFL officials 'went smoothly. There were no problems and no issues.'
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
James Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, said his client's meeting with NFL officials 'went smoothly. There were no problems and no issues.'

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn't need to hear whether James Harrison plans to return for another year anytime soon.

Speaking on Tuesday at the AFC coaches breakfast at the Boca Raton Resort and Club at the NFL's annual meeting, Tomlin said a definitive decision on if Harrison will play in 2016 isn't something that he will be seeking from the soon-to-be 38-year-old linebacker.

“I am not going to put a gun to his head,” Tomlin said. “I am not going to ask him to do much at Latrobe anyway. Let's be honest. He is over there on Field 8 in training camp so he doesn't hurt any of the kids.”

Harrison has one year left on a two-year deal that will pay him $1.25 million, with a cap hit of $1.5 million. It was the second deal Harrison signed since announcing his retirement in 2014. Harrison was coaxed out of retirement three weeks into the 2014 season after an injury to Jarvis Jones.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said last month and reiterated Sunday that the Steelers want Harrison back.

“I think he'll be (back). But again, when I said that before, I said there's no reason in our minds that we wouldn't want him back,” Colbert said.

Harrison is in the midst of his offseason training in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the Performance Enhancement Professionals. He reportedly will make a decision depending on how his body feels at the end of the near two-month training session.

“James is not going to short-change himself. James is not going to short-change the game of football,” Tomlin said. “I believe him when he says he's going through a process to see his overall readiness and potential effectiveness. He knows what he is doing, and he's been doing it for a long time.

“He knows whether or not his body can do what he needs it to do. I respect that mentality. It is really an unselfish mentality, when you think about it. He doesn't want to let this team down in any way and more importantly than that, he wants to make sure he is capable of leading this team in ways he has done in the past.”

Harrison performed well last year at 37. He played the most snaps of any of the four outside linebackers and missed only one game because of injury. The Steelers return outside linebackers in Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats and Bud Dupree.

The Steelers will begin organized team activities in mid-May. Harrison was present last year but didn't take part in spring drills. Harrison also sat out the first two weeks of the preseason.

“I don't think any of us are going to be surprised if he is capable (of playing another season), because I know James,” Tomlin said.

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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