Steelers cut Porter, Haynes to get under the cap

After two weeks of internal debate, the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to cut ties with one of their most recognized players -- linebacker Joey Porter.

Porter and running back Verron Haynes were released Thursday as the Steelers got under the salary cap. But the decision to release Porter wasn't as much a cap move as it was a change in direction. A three-time Pro Bowl performer, Porter turns 30 on March 22. And with new coach Mike Tomlin taking over for Bill Cowher, the Steelers were looking to go in a different direction with their linebacking corps.

Porter is one of the league's most outspoken players and is willing to verbally challenge opponents. His approach did not mesh well with the Steelers' image.

"The organization has always been good to me," Porter said in a television interview. "It was a great run in Pittsburgh. I have no problem with them at all. I think it was a tough decision that they had to make, and it was one they had to make and they did it in the right way."

Over the past couple of days, Pittsburgh shopped Porter in trade discussions and there was some interest. In the end, the Steelers decided to give him the chance to find a new team instead of sending him somewhere he might not want to go.

"Releasing a player like Joey Porter, who has meant so much to this franchise and helped us win a Super Bowl championship, is not an easy thing to do," Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert said. "It's definitely a salary cap-related issue where we needed some short-term relief. But we also had to factor in what our cap situation's going to be in 2008 and 2009 and beyond. ... I'm sure Joey will attract a lot of interest [from other teams] very quickly."

Porter was entering the final year of his contract, and there weren't plans to sign him to an extension. Porter was scheduled to make $5.225 million this season. His release, and Haynes', saves the Steelers $6.065 million of cap room.

Because Porter is still a productive player, some in the organization wanted to keep him. On Thursday, management decided to move on. James Harrison is expected to take over for Porter at outside linebacker.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.