Issue is over money, not length

When you pit the reigning Super Bowl champions against the league's defensive MVP in contract negotiations, there are bound to be rough patches.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, this is one of those times, as the sides remain far apart in negotiations, Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, told ESPN.com Wednesday.

"We're talking and meeting pretty regularly, almost daily, but we're having a difficult time getting to where we need to be," Parise said. "I would say talks are progressing but not necessarily yielding the results that we would expect."

Barring something unforeseen, the Steelers are not expected to have a deal in place with Harrison before the start of free agency on Friday.

Length is not the primary issue. Both sides have discussed a deal in the range of five to six years. But the two sides are far apart monetarily and how it would be distributed over the length of the contract. The uncertainty with the collective bargaining agreement, with talks possibly starting this spring, also is something both sides have to work through.

Harrison, 30, is not due to become a free agent until 2010.

"I think the Steelers are trying to get a deal done, too," Parise said. "It's just right now we're not close."

Harrison, a two-time Pro Bowler, registered 101 tackles, 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles for Pittsburgh last season. He also had the longest interception return in Super Bowl history of 100 yards in the win over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

James Walker covers the AFC North for ESPN.com.