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NFL notes: Steelers part ways with linebacker James Harrison

James Harrison’s long tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers is over. The AFC North champions released the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker and 2008 NFL defensive player of the year on Saturday to make room for right tackle Marcus Gilbert.

Gilbert is returning from a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy.

The 39-year-old Harrison is the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks, piling up 80.5 during his 14 seasons with the Steelers and 82.5 during his career.

Harrison briefly retired in September 2014 following a forgettable 2013 season in Cincinnati but returned when the Steelers ran into injury trouble.

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He collected at least five sacks every season between 2014 and 2016 and signed a two-year deal last spring that would have kept him in Pittsburgh through his 40th birthday.

Harrison’s playing time dipped significantly this season. He has been active in just five of Pittsburgh’s 14 games despite being injury-free.

Meanwhile, Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, who has never played in the playoffs, experienced a scare when he broke his leg a month ago against Indianapolis. Five weeks later, Haden has recovered to the point where he’s on track to play Monday when the AFC North champion Steelers visit the Houston Texans.

Injury updates

Coach Jack Del Rio says there’s a “good chance” the Oakland Raiders will have receiver Amari Cooper back after he missed last week’s game with a sprained ankle. Cooper was listed as questionable on Saturday for the game Monday night at Philadelphia. … The New Orleans Saints have added leading receiver Michael Thomas to their injury report in advance of Sunday’s game against Atlanta. The club says Thomas, whose status was updated Saturday, has a hamstring injury. He is questionable for the matchup against the Falcons, who can move ahead of the Saints in the NFC South standings by winning the Christmas Eve clash. …

The Jacksonville Jaguars have promoted receiver Jaelen Strong to the active roster, an indication Allen Hurns (ankle) will miss his sixth consecutive game. To make room on the roster Saturday, the Jaguars (10-4) waived/injured first-year receiver Larry Pinkard (concussion). … Injured wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer didn’t make the Denver Broncos’ trip to Washington and will miss Sunday’s game against the Redskins. Sanders has been dealing with a sprained ankle and Latimer a bruised thigh.


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