LATROBE, Pa. -- When James Harrison wasn't joking that he'll play for the "Las Vegas Raiders" while in his 40s -- a slight dig at the NFL's probe into an offseason arm-wrestling event over potential gambling violations -- the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker made clear he's content with any role in the defense.
Outside linebackers coach Joey Porter told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Steelers Nation Radio this week that the team plans to use rookie T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree as primary pass-rushers with Harrison serving in a relief role.
"I'll be fine, whatever they want me to do," Harrison said after Wednesday's walk-through. "Whatever they want, I'm good."
"I fully expect him to be a significant contributor. Even if that's playing significant downs in whatever combination we come up with. We're learning about these young guys. We don't know until they prove they can go 16 (games)." Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, on James Harrison
Harrison, 39, signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract in the offseason and is still first string on the depth chart. He recorded 5.0 sacks in each of the past two regular seasons. While Harrison doesn't participate in most training camp practices, as is customary given his age, Watt has been impressive in an extended role. Coach Mike Tomlin said he won't forecast snap counts but adds he's "on the fence" about the extent of Harrison's role.
Reflecting his team-player attitude on the matter, Harrison beckoned his age.
"I'm 39 years old still playing football," he said.
General manager Kevin Colbert told ESPN that Harrison is contributing now with behind-scenes work and will contribute mightily during the season. He stressed the coaches make playing-time decisions but "our job is to keep players coming in that can someday contribute and hopefully be as good as (Harrison)," which is hardly a certainty.
"I fully expect him to be a significant contributor," Colbert said. "Even if that's playing significant downs in whatever combination we come up with. We're learning about these young guys. We don't know until they prove they can go 16 (games)."
When asked whether he has decided about playing into his 40s, Harrison said he hasn't yet, but one factor might sway him.
"I'm thinking of going to 40 if I can go to Vegas for the last (years)," Harrison said. "That Oakland Raiders team, that Las Vegas Raiders team."
Harrison was one of several players participating in the Vegas arm-wrestling event, which the league said in April it would investigate. No player fines over league gambling violations have been announced.