Steelers, Harrison reach middle ground

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Pittsburgh Steelers scratched a major item from their offseason to-do list by agreeing with Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison on a six-year contract Monday. According to ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton, the deal is worth $51.175 million.

Harrison will become one of the highest-paid defensive players in the NFL, but the average value of about $8.5 million per season isn't too high for the Steelers to pay for the reigning defensive MVP. Comparatively, the New York Jets signed linebacker Bart Scott to a six-year, $48 million contract.

This was not an easy negotiation. Pittsburgh rarely breaks the bank for players, particularly linebackers, but Harrison drastically outperformed his contract the past two years. Knowing this, both parties got started in good faith early and hit the expected rough patches before reaching a middle ground.

The major question now is, how long will Harrison, 30, be able to play at an elite level?

Harrison is a late bloomer who, despite his age, doesn't have much wear and tear on his body. He has been a full-time starter for only two years, and if Harrison continues to dominate for the next three or four seasons, it will be a good deal for everyone involved.