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."
--Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Co. is offering a special "Six-Pack" of 14-ounce Heinz ketchup bottle in a holder in honor of the Steelers sixth Super Bowl win. Each carries a label commemorating each of the six championships and sells for $35. They are available for purchase at www.myheinz.com.
--Linebacker Marquis Cooper, lost at sea in a boating accident in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida, played for the Steelers briefly in 2006 and 2007, mostly on special teams.
--The marijuana possession case against Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes will continue after he waived his right to a preliminary hearing. The misdemeanor charge came about after a traffic stop in Pittsburgh on Oct. 23.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The guaranteed money is a misconception. It's sometimes a lot of fluff." -- Kevin Colbert, director of football operations.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Jason Capizzi, previously listed as an exclusive rights free agent, signed a two-year contract when he rejoined the Steelers late last season through 2009. The Steelers signed WR Martin Nance to their roster. He was on their practice squad last season.
TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY
The Steelers lost one free agent, wide receiver Nate Washington, and will not try to sign another, tackle Marvel Smith. They franchised tackle Max Starks, tendered tackle Willie Colon (first-round pick) and cornerback Anthony Madison (first refusal, no picks in return). They re-signed starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu and fullback-tight end Sean McHugh, who had been a restricted free agent. They released veteran guard Kendall Simmons, who failed their physical after tearing an Achilles tendon in the fourth game of the season.
1. Offensive linemen: While they kept Starks, Kemoeatu and tendered Colon, they have little depth and no one to push their starters. Resigning UFA Trai Essex, who can play tackle and guard, would help.
2. Defensive linemen: They have good players, better than most, but they're also getting old. Five of their top six defensive linemen are over 30.
3. Wide receivers: Losing UFA Nate Washington to the Titans means they have two experienced players at the position, Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward, who turns 33 in March. Limas Sweed, who played little as a rookie, moves up to No. 3.