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Steelers re-sign LB James Harrison

The Pittsburgh Steelers turned to a familiar face to address questions they have at outside linebacker.

The team signed James Harrison to a two-year contract on Sunday, adding the 12th-year veteran to a position where they had just two players with NFL experience.

"Real happy to have James stay," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Sunday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. "This offseason James has been great with our young defenders and particularly our linebackers. I think he's taken on a mentorship role and he seems to really be enjoying it. Plus we think he can still help us on the field."

Harrison, who turns 37 in May, announced Saturday on social media that he would decide between the Steelers and Tennessee Titans.

Harrison seriously considered the Titans because of his close relationship with Dick LeBeau, Tennessee's assistant head coach/defense who had been the Steelers' defensive coordinator for the previous 11 seasons.

Harrison's return to the Steelers puts off retirement -- or a return to it -- a little longer for the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The Steelers talked Harrison out of retirement last season following an injury to starting right outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. And Harrison proved to be a revelation despite his advanced football age and having to play his way into football shape. He recorded 5.5 sacks in 11 regular-season games and emerged as the Steelers' best pass rusher while playing like the Harrison of old.

The need to bring back Harrison only increased as the team did not sign any outside linebackers during the first wave of free agency and lost any chance of re-signing Jason Worilds, who retired to pursue a religious calling.

The specter of Harrison re-uniting with LeBeau also compelled the Steelers to re-sign the 6-foot, 250-pounder now instead of waiting until before the start of training camp.

Harrison, who is third on the Steelers' all-time sacks list (69.5), joins Jones, who lost most of last season because of a dislocated elbow, and Arthur Moats as the only outside linebackers on the roster with NFL experience.

The Steelers did not necessarily sign Harrison to start at right outside linebacker but they did not bring him back to sit either.

Colbert said he expects an "open competition" at right outside linebacker where Jones will enter offseason practices as the starter. Harrison will push Jones and play in front of Jones if the 2013 first-round draft pick falters.

"I think he has starting abilities," Colbert said. "I think you have to be careful for any type of player at that age save a quarterback."

The Steelers signed former Canadian Football League star Shawn Lemon in January and are expected to take an outside linebacker early in the NFL draft.

The Steelers were around $8.446 million under the salary cap, according to ESPN Roster Management, prior to the Harrison signing.