Talks have not gone as smoothly lately between the Steelers and the agent for linebacker James Harrison.
Harrison, the NFL defensive player of the year and team MVP the past two seasons, has one year left on his contract at $1.4 million, and the Steelers want to sign him to a long-term deal. He worked for a $1.2 million salary last season and $1.1 million in 2007, when he replaced Joey Porter as their starting outside linebacker.
Agent Bill Parise sent the Steelers a new proposal this week, but his early optimism has been tempered over the past 10 days.
"That happens when this thing hangs on a little bit, you tend to lose that optimism," Parise said.
It's rare when the Steelers want to keep one of their players with a year left on his deal and do not get it done. He's the only player with a year left on his contract they are pursuing at the moment.
"Obviously James separated himself and that's something we're going to continue to pursue along with our current free agents," said Kevin Colbert, the team's director of football operations.
Harrison, a late bloomer who turns 31 in May, set the Steelers record with 16 sacks last season and topped it with a game-changing 100-yard interception return for a touchdown on the last play of the first half of Super Bowl XLIII. He's noted as the most grueling workout star of the Steelers defense, which finished atop the NFL last season.
It's almost inconceivable that they won't get a contract done with him this spring, because they don't want it to become a distraction when they resume their offseason workouts.
"I'm sure we'll get a contract done at some point," Parise said. "Nothing's changed. I sent the Steelers an offer and I'm sure I'll hear back from them."