James Harrison Joins Patriots Days After Being Cut by Steelers

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James Harrison before the Pittsburgh Steelers played the New England Patriots on Dec. 17. Released by the Steelers over the weekend after playing in only five games, Harrison joined the Patriots on Tuesday.

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Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Linebacker James Harrison is no longer the odd man out or the oldest man in the locker room.

Harrison, the longtime Steelers star, signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots on Tuesday, three days after his unceremonious departure from Pittsburgh.

Harrison, 39, posted a photo on Instagram showing himself with the 40-year-old Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in New England’s locker room, writing that he finally had “a teammate that’s older than me!”

The A.F.C. North champion Steelers released Harrison, a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker who was the N.F.L. defensive player of the year in 2008, on Saturday to make room for right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who was returning from a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy.

“We make the decisions we feel give us the very best chance to win,” Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday when asked why the team didn’t release a different player to make room for Gilbert. “We needed the people we kept. We needed to activate Marcus Gilbert. Really, it’s nothing more than that.”

To make room for Harrison on their roster, the Patriots released linebacker Trevor Reilly.

Harrison, who is the Steelers’ career leader in sacks, piling up 80.5 during his 14 seasons and 82.5 during his career over all, briefly retired in September 2014 after a forgettable 2013 season with the Cincinnati Bengals. But he returned later that month when the Steelers ran into injury trouble.

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