It’s strange to hear James Harrison ripped by the Steelers throughout the locker room. But his former teammates in Pittsburgh are clearly not happy that he’s a Patriot.
Multiple Steelers players spoke candidly and harshly about Harrison’s exit on Wednesday. Overall, they expressed anger that Harrison seemingly forced his way out of Pittsburgh.
The strongest words came from center Maurkice Pouncey, who believes Harrison undid the impeccable Steelers resume he built up over most of his NFL career.
“He erased his own legacy,” Pouncey told reporters.
James Harrison ripped in ruthless fashion
When pressed on his harsh evaluation of Harrison and his Steelers legacy, Pouncey explained his feelings on the matter in further detail. Particularly, the linebacker’s apparent desire to specifically leave the Steelers and join the Patriots.
“It’s funny to read the stories. It’s something he wanted to do. He needs to come out and admit that,” said Pouncey. “If you don’t want to be here just come out and say it. Don’t make it seem like it is the team’s decision. You think the team wants to get rid of James Harrison? Come on now. The team didn’t do anything. If I wanted out I wouldn’t let the team take the blame. That’s me as a man. I’m glad the team is being respectful. But we are going to speak the truth.”
Likewise, linebacker Bud Dupree wanted to ensure that Harrison gets the blame for his departure and not the Steelers.
“I don’t want the media to portray that we’re the reason he left. That ain’t the reason,” said Dupree. “He chose to leave. He made certain decisions, and his actions got him to this circumstance.”
Coupled with them is cornerback Artie Burns, who described the Patriots as “where he wanted to be.”
James Harrison Smear Campaign?
The criticism didn’t stop there for Harrison. Pittsburgh-area radio host Paul Zeise tweeted on Wednesday that Dupree told him Harrison refused to mentor young linebackers like himself and T.J. Watt.
Dupree absolutely unloaded on Harrison in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, describing his move to the Patriots as the ultimate insult.
“It feels like he went to the Patriots just to spit in Coach Tomlin and Mr. Rooney’s face. That’s all it was to us,” Dupree said, via the Post-Gazette’s Sean Gentille. “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.”
The smears reached absurd levels when ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweeted on Wednesday night that Harrison would sleep in a recliner during positional meetings. Additionally, he would “snore loudly” while outside linebackers coach Joey Porter tried to teach the players.
But on the other hand…
On the contrary, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was more diplomatic when asked about Harrison’s release from the Steelers.
“James has to do what James has to do,” said Roethlisberger. “It’s not like he called and asked me if he should or not. James was out there. He’s a free agent. He has to do what’s best for him and his family. I wish him the best. I had a lot of good years with him.”
Will he turn it around in New England?
It’s clear that Harrison’s ex-teammates are unhappy with how the linebacker handled himself in the face of a significantly reduced role. At the same time, he may not have much left to offer the Patriots on the field in the first place. But perhaps the Steelers’ anger stems from a lack of effort for a player who’s still capable of flashing his All-Pro form.
If he does, he’ll do it in a Patriots uniform. And there’s no reason for anyone in Pittsburgh to be happy about that.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff.