Ex-Steelers linebacker Harrison signs with Pats

James Harrison is no longer the odd man out or the oldest man in the locker room.

The ex-Steelers star signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots on Tuesday, three days after his unceremonious departure from Pittsburgh.

The 39-year-old linebacker posted a photo on showing himself with 40-year-old quarterback Tom Brady in New England’s locker room, writing that he finally has “a teammate that’s older than me!”

The AFC North champion Steelers 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, who is returning from a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy.

“We make the decisions we feel give us the very best chance to win,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday when asked why the team didn’t release a different player to make room for Gilbert. “We needed the people we kept. We needed to activate Marcus Gilbert. Really, it’s nothing more than that.”

A day before, Tomlin had said following that difficult decisions such as this are “just life in football.”

Harrison, who is the Steelers’ career leader in sacks, piling up 80½ during his 14 seasons with the Steelers and 82½ during his career, briefly retired in September 2014 following a forgettable 2013 season in Cincinnati but returned when the Steelers ran into injury trouble.

But Harrison’s playing time dipped significantly this season — he has just one sack. He was active in just five games despite being injury-free and with the Steelers turning more toward outside linebackers Bud Dupree and rookie T.J. Watt.

Harrison would get a chance to face his former team if the Patriots and Steelers meet in the conference championship for a rematch of last year’s title game, which New England won 36-17 on its way to its fifth Super Bowl title.