Steelers legend James Harrison signs with Patriots after surprising release

When James Harrison eventually retires -- it has to happen at some point, right? -- he'll go down as a Steelers legend. But there is a very real chance that he'll be going up against the Steelers in January as a member of the Patriots when the two teams likely meet with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.

On Tuesday, ESPN's Field Yates reported that Harrison is expected to sign with New England. Harrison was shockingly cut by the Steelers last week and cleared waivers. He visited Foxboro on Tuesday and he apparently won't be leaving without a contract.

Harrison confirmed the report by calling Tom Brady his "teammate" in an Instagram post.

Finally... A teammate that’s older than me!😂😂 @tombrady

A post shared by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on

Harrison is the Steelers' all-time leader in sacks (80.5), but he lost his starting job this season as the Steelers' youth movement took over -- including T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Harrison appeared in five games this season and recorded one sack. The Steelers cut him to make room for right tackle Marcus Gilbert.

Harrison signing with the Patriots isn't just a fit from a narrative standpoint, though that alone is enough to get me excited about the possibility. It's also a football fit considering the Patriots could use some help on defense after letting multiple pass rushers go over the years and after losing a player like Dont'a Hightower to a season-ending injury. If the Patriots don't win the Super Bowl, it'll likely be because their defense wasn't good enough. Harrison isn't a game-changer, but he can help.

From 2014-16, he racked up 15.5 sacks. In last year's playoffs, he picked up 2.5 sacks. Harrison, 39, was barely used by the Steelers this season. So, maybe he'll be fresh and bolster the Patriots' pass rush come January. 

The Steelers and Patriots appear to be on a collision course in the AFC, with the Patriots holding the top seed and the Steelers slotted in at second. If they do meet in the AFC title game, Harrison's chance to get revenge against his former team will be one of many awesome storylines. 

Nobody should blame Steelers fans if they're already dreading Harrison's inevitable game-ending strip sack of Ben Roethlisberger, which really would be the most fitting ending to a Steelers-Patriots AFC Championship game. And if that happens, the Steelers will have no one to blame but themselves. They chose to demote Harrison and they chose to let him go. Surely they had to know the Patriots would be interested. 

What a strange season this has been for Harrison. Even still, his odds of winning a Super Bowl are looking better and better with each passing day.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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