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Report: Steelers coaches would like James Harrison back in 2013

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Could Harrison remain in Pittsburgh in 2013? (US Presswire)

The Steelers are approximately $14 million over the $121 million salary cap, which means they have some tough choices to make in the coming weeks. Veterans will be jettisoned, young promising players about to hit free agency may not be re-signed, and all this while the organization tries to rebound from a disappointing 8-8 record last season.

Names we've heard as possible cap-related casualties include Casey Hampton, James Harrison, and soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Larry Foote, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis.

Harrison, who's 34 and scheduled to make $6.6 million next season, said recently through his agent that he's not interested in taking a pay cut -- though he would be open to restructuring his contract.

And while general manager Kevin Colbert has an uncanny knack for unearthing talent (having franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who can make up for a lot of deficiencies elsewhere on the roster -- like, say, the offensive line -- doesn't hurt, either), the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette writes Sunday that both Foote and Harrison could return next season.

Foote also had a good year. He had four sacks, 11 pressures, forced two fumbles and recovered two. He calls the defensive plays, taking over that role from his departed buddy James Farrior. Foote is 32 and a free agent, but the Steelers want him back and there's a good chance he will sign a one-year contract. ...

Harrison was held back by knee surgery that was curiously delayed until training camp after the issue kept him from participating in most of the spring drills. He missed the first three games and took at least half the season before he returned to form. He started the rest of the 13 games and tied for the sack lead with six. ...

The coaching staff is counting on Harrison and (LaMarr) Woodley for 2013. Harrison's salary could be an issue as the team tries to get under the cap, but the coaches would like him back at right outside linebacker.

Of course, the coaches don't have final say on personnel issues, nor do they deal with the nuances of the salary cap. Yes, Harrison looked more like his old self during the last half of 2012, but he'll be 35 when the season starts -- and even if the Steelers wanted to, they can't afford to pay him $6.6 million.

Upside: Harrison has a fallback plan if this whole NFL thing falls through.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

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