The Pittsburgh Steelers are going through a bitter divorce, of sorts, with former veteran linebacker James Harrison.
Harrison, who was cut by the Steelers and signed with the New England Patriots recently, cited playing time as the main reason as to why he was frustrated with the Steelers this season.
But Harrison’s former teammates blasted the linebacker.
“He erased his own legacy,” Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey told the media (h/t ESPN).
Players contest Harrison’s complaint, saying that everything went according to plan.
“After the first week of the season, I said to them, it’s clear you want to play your younger guys, and I understand, so why don’t you release me? You go on your way, and I’ll go on mine,” Harrison said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“They said, ‘No, no, no, we got a role for you.'”
Harrison added that he stopped asking for his release after he played only 15 snaps in a Week 6 win over the Kansas City Chiefs and was told to “be ready” for significant snaps against the Patriots, but did not play.
“If I didn’t play in the biggest game of the year, that told me I wouldn’t get any more snaps,” Harrison said. “So all that lip service you gave me before didn’t matter.”
Head coach Mike Tomlin said that Harrison’s release was related to the team needing to bring back Marcus Gilbert, who was returning from suspension.
Harrison’s former teammates, however, are singing a different tune.
“If you didn’t want to be here, come out and say it,” Pouncey said. “Don’t make it look like it’s the team’s fault. … You think the team and the organization wanted to get rid of James Harrison? Come on, now. If I wanted out, I wouldn’t let the team take the blame for it.”
“I don’t want the media to portray that we’re the reason he left” Steelers’ linebacker Bud Dupress said.
“That ain’t the reason. He chose to leave. He made certain decisions, and his actions got him to this circumstance.”
“I guess [New England is] where he wanted to be,” Steelers cornerback Artie Burns said, adding that Harrison’s “energy” showed the team that he was upset about a lack of playing time, creating a “a whole thing with him and the guys upstairs”.
According to the report Harrison would fall asleep in team meetings and snore loudly when Steelers coach Joey Porter was trying to teach and there were times when Harrison would skip meetings.
Steelers players were weary when Harrison would miss practice for various injuries only to find out that Harrison conducted power-lifting sessions the same week or same day.
Harrison would tell teammates he was trying to force a trade, would leave the facility at random times and would leave stadiums before or during games on days he was inactive.
Dupree spoke on his radio show about how Harrison showed no interest in mentoring him or rookie linebacker Tj Watt.
“I don’t know how many secrets about the playbook Harrison could give to [the Patriots] because I never saw him in meetings,” said Dupree, according to host Paul Zeise.
“We’re going to speak the truth. That’s what it is,” Pouncey said.
“I want [backup B.J. Finney] to be the best offensive lineman. If he comes and takes my position, it is what it is. … I’m not going to complain about that. I’m very thankful for everything. I’m a man about everything. Any time I messed up, every time I never did anything, I stood up to everybody and told them. It is what it is. I’m not going to run from no one.”
Harrison seems excited to get a shot at playing time with New England.
“I cleared waivers, New England had called and said they wanted me to come up, and we talked,” Harrison told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week.
“At 4:30 that afternoon, I flew to Boston, and there was no communication from the Steelers about anything.”
“I don’t care. Bye. Have fun,” Pouncey said.