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Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison wasn't playing much, but releasing him still could be a mistake.

Steelers lost something of value by releasing James Harrison

Ryan Wooden

Former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison only made 5 appearances and never played more than 15 snaps in any of those games before the organization released him on Saturday but they’ll still lose something of value without him.

Experience is hard to quantify and teams have a general tendency to shy away from assigning tangible value to that quality, but with a young room of outside linebackers who don’t have a lot of postseason experience losing Harrison and the fact that he can give you 15-20 valuable snaps if the younger players aren’t cutting it.

Even though he only played 40 snaps this season, he was actually productive in those snaps. Particularly in a win against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he recorded his only sack of the year.

Without him, T.J. Watt, Bud DuPree and Anthony Chickillo won’t have his experience to rely upon as they’ve had all year. And then there’s also the possibility that he lands with another playoff team, where he can cause significant damage both as a pass rusher against Ben Roethlisberger and as a source of information.

The Steelers got themselves into a bind when Gilbert came off the commissioner’s exempt list after serving a four-game suspension and Harrison was the casualty. At the surface, it makes sense because Harrison wasn’t playing a lot, but that fact in and of itself is the byproduct of another mistake the front office made.

Bringing Harrison back on a two-year deal certainly made it seem as if he was going to be a part of their short-term plans as a situational pass-rusher. However, when the season started and he was nowhere to be found it created some poor optics and upset a franchise legend.

Even worse strictly from an asset management standpoint, they wasted a roster spot to hold onto a player they only planned on using sparingly. They could have kept a player with more special teams value or brought on a younger player (probably both), but decided to sell a false bill of goods about how Harrison was being saved for later instead.

So, in essence, they wasted 15 weeks rostering him when they could have made a clean break earlier in the year and given him a better chance to find a situation where he could continue playing. And any value that he would have given them to justify having kept him on for that long went out the window.

It might not be enough to make a difference between winning a title or not. Although, if Harrison signs with the New England Patriots and gives them 25 snaps against the Steelers in an AFC Championship and racks up a couple of sacks it could certainly feel like it did.

But, in more general terms, it can have an impact and it certainly highlights a mistake the Steelers have been making for months now.