Reminiscing begins immediately when a legendary player’s career in the Steel City comes to an end. It was like that when the great players of the 1970s retired, all the way through Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward. To the Steelers all-time sacks leader, thanks for the memories, now please shut up James Harrison. Your career is to be admired for your accomplishments and perseverance. You struck fear into every quarterback in the NFL, not to mention your own position coach as a rookie. Your workouts and displays of great strength are legendary, but couldn’t help you fight off time. You knew you were an insurance policy when you signed up. The Pittsburgh Steelers likely would have kept you around, but you forced their hand. Shortly after, you started running your mouth and here we are. You forced the Steelers hand and tried to play the victim.
Thanks for the Memories, Now Please Shut Up James Harrison
Harrison came to the Steelers in 2002 as undrafted rookie free agent from Kent State. Scouts thought Harrison was to be too small to play linebacker, and too light for defensive end. Dick LeBeau thought that Harrison, because he was stout and powerful, could be perfect for his defense. Despite being extremely rough around the edges, LeBeau saw the huge potential with the Kent State star. Harrison began rewarding LeBeau’s faith in him five years later.
From Practice Squad to Pro Bowl
Harrison’s career got off to as rough a start as one could have. James Farrior told NFL Network that Harrison was so green early on in his career that he would simply “give up” on plays that he was struggling with, and even would ask the coaches not to play him. Farrior said, “He was a knucklehead that didn’t know the plays. We’d be in practice, in training camp, and he might not know what he was doing so he’d just stop and throw his hands up and tell the coaches to get him out of there. We thought the guy was crazy.”
Harrison bounced around the practice squad for two years, which also included a brief stint with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens assigned Harrison to the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, but cut him shortly after. Harrison considered retirement until the Steelers called again following an injury to Clark Haggans. From 2004-2012 Harrison became the most feared linebacker in the NFL. He racked up 68 sacks, made five Pro Bowls, and was selected a First-Team All-Pro twice. Harrison won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year following a 16 sack season in 2008. He followed that with the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history, returning an interception 100 yards for a touchdown.
From Pro Bowl Linebacker to Ex-Steeler
Harrison left the Steelers for the 2013 season, but returned a year later. He had 16.5 sacks since his return while gradually being transitioned to a reduced role. Harrison returned in 2017 for the chance to win another Super Bowl title, expecting significant playing time. The improvement of Anthony Chickillo, and the emergence of rookie T.J. Watt crushed those expectations. Harrison had just 40 snaps through 15 weeks, collecting just one sack and three tackles. The Steelers deemed him most expendable when it came time for Marcus Gilbert to return from suspension. At the time, the team was accused of being disloyal to a legend when they released Harrison. How could they treat a loyal team player like that?
Harrison May Not Have Been a Great Teammate After All
“It feels like he went to the Patriots just to spit in coach Mike Tomlin and Mr. Art Rooney‘s face. That’s all it was to us,” Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree said. “Like, basically you spit on your teammates, you spit on us because the whole season you’ve been shown as someone different than what you were supposed to, so-called, be to us — other than a leader.”
“He erased himself,” Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. “He erased his own legacy here.”
Mike Mitchell expressed his opinion saying, “I’m not going to assassinate his character, but I wouldn’t have done it for $59,000.”
Paul Zeise tweeted “Dupree said Harrison would leave the stadium as soon as he found out he was inactive the past four or five weeks, often didn’t practice or attend meetings and rarely would come in the locker room. Said he wouldn’t visit Ryan Shazier in hospital, either.”
Last Word on James Harrison
Harrison claims the Steelers treated him badly by lying to him, misleading him, then releasing him. His teammates have been telling a different story, saying his attitude kept him from showing up to meetings, and mentoring younger players. The simple truth is that Harrison lost playing time because he could no longer do what the Steelers needed. Watt and Chickillo played better than expected earning a majority of the playing time. Had Harrison played special teams, or had the ability to drop into coverage, he may have found the field more. Please shut up James Harrison and accept that your declining abilities didn’t suit the Steelers needs anymore. The sad part is that Harrison could have gone out a hero. Harrison, instead, chose to alienate his teammates and talk dishonorably about a classy organization who never gave up on him.