A quick look at the New England Patriots possible playoff opponents

A quick look at the New England Patriots possible playoff opponents

When James Harrison was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday to make room for suspended right tackle Marcus Gilbert, fans in the Steel City were up in arms.

To make room for Harrison, the Patriots have released linebacker Trevor Reilly.

Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers had an absolutely dominating performance against the Houston Texans, reporters in the postgame still felt like they needed to ask head coach Mike Tomlin about the absence of James Harrison.

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.

Harrison, a five-time Pro Bowler, signed a two-year deal with the Steelers before the 2017 season, but he played just 40 snaps in five games, tallying just one sack and three tackles. The only competition for that coveted top seed is the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Patriots can handle business all on their own.

The Patriots finish the regular season on Sunday, December 31 at home against the New Jets. Harrison would get a chance to play against his former team if both teams advance to the AFC Championship Game for a second straight season.

Harrison totaled 80.5 sacks with the Steelers.

Harrison's 100-yard return of a Kurt Warner interception in Super Bowl XLII was one of the defining moments of Pittsburgh's win over the Arizona Cardinals and remains one of the most iconic moments in the game's history.

Harrison played parts of 14 of his 15 career National Football League seasons with Pittsburgh and is the franchise leader in sacks.