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NFL’s top defenders out looking for work

The Steelers parted ways with former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.

Gene J. Puskar/AP

The Steelers parted ways with former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.

The Steelers cut ties with five-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, and he’s just the latest former NFL Defensive Player of the Year to encounter career trouble since winning the award.

The difference between last season’s winner, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, and the six players who preceded him is age: Watt just turned 24, and the previous six winners had an average age of 29 when they claimed the honor.

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• 2011: Terrell Suggs, LB, Ravens (age 29); Torn Achilles’ kept him out until Week 7 last season, and finished with just two sacks

• 2010: Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers (29); An All-Pro in 2011, but injuries limited him to seven games (with just one INT) in 2012

• 2009: Charles Woodson, CB, Packers (33); Age finally caught up with him in 2012 (only seven games), was released last week

• 2008: James Harrison, LB, Steelers (30); Sacks went down for third straight season in 2012, deemed expendable by Pittsburgh

• 2007: Bob Sanders, S, Colts (26); After winning award, played only 11 more games over final four seasons of his career

• 2006: Jason Taylor, LB, Dolphins (32); Made only one more Pro Bowl, became situational player until retirement after 2011

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