Ex-Steeler Harrison signs with Bengals

| Friday, April 19, 2013, 5:48 p.m.

James Harrison is leaving Pittsburgh, but he's not going far. Ben Roethlisberger might be hearing his footsteps already.

Harrison, the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker cut by the Steelers on March 9 after the sides couldn't settle on a reworked contract, signed a two-year deal Friday with the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals.

“Whodey!!!!!!!!! Hello Cincinnati!!!!” Harrison posted on Twitter.

The Steelers and their old teammate won't wait long to see each other. The Steelers play a Monday night game in Cincinnati on Sept. 16 during the second weekend of the season. Harrison returns to Pittsburgh on Dec. 15 for the first time as a visiting player.

“It was a goal of ours all along,” Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, said of staying in the AFC North. “It's going to work out fine. We're ready to move on.”

There were various media reports earlier in the week that Harrison and the Bengals weren't close in contract talks. Asked if Harrison was happy with the contract, Parise said, “There wouldn't be a deal if he wasn't happy.”

The Bengals apparently chose Harrison over former Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby, who is familiar playing in a 4-3 defense like Cincinnati plays. Harrison always has played in the Steelers' 3-4 defense, but Parise said he is looking forward to playing for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a former Steelers assistant whose schemes are familiar to the Steelers'.

Harrison and Dansby visited Cincinnati last week as the Bengals sought to replace outside linebacker Manny Lawson, who signed with the Bills.

The Steelers wanted to keep Harrison but at a price considerably lower than the $6.57 million he was set to make in the next-to-last year of his contract. Harrison balked, then needed nearly a month and a half to find a new team.

“James felt it was inevitable that he was going to sign some place,” Parise said.

Since Harrison became a regular in 2007, after being cut four times, his 60 sacks are the fourth most in the NFL. He had six sacks during his final, injury-shortened season with Pittsburgh in 2012.

Harrison had 16 sacks while winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2008, when he had a record 100-yard interception return touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl.

The Steelers finished No. 1 in the league defensively in four of Harrison's six seasons as a starter.

The Ravens were interested in Harrison but chose to sign former Broncos linebacker Elvis Dumervil.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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