Ah, it sure is fun to talk about James Harrison. Before long we won’t have much reason to anymore. But right now, the former Pittsburgh Steelers legend is on the biggest stage in the sport: the week prior to the Super Bowl, where everybody gets interviewed for about a week straight. So of course we are going to hear from him.
We talked a little bit about what he had to say already yesterday. He did admit, for example, that he slept during meetings, and he did not express much concern for his legacy in the Steel City, drawing a spur of the moment comparison to Hall of Famer Franco Harris, who finished his career with the Seattle Seahawks.
But there were some other interesting nuggets that he divulged as well, now more than a month removed from the two sides’ separation, after he was released by the Steelers following repeated requests throughout the season by him for the team to do just that.
After he signed with the New England Patriots and received backlash for it, with former teammates making a number of comments about his conduct during his final months with the team, he did try to get his own perspective out there.
Over the week, he reaffirmed his belief that he was promised a certain amount of playing time that the team did not adhere to. “I was just told I’d get around 20, 25 percent of the snaps”, he said. He only got a few dozen snaps, in the end, over about three quarters of the season.
Of course, whether or not he was ‘promised’ any sort of playing time is ultimately immaterial. There are no binding words that guarantee anybody playing time. The New York Giants benched Eli Manning. The Steelers were not obligated to play Harrison at all, regardless of what may or may not have been told to him.
Still, the fact remains that he came up well short of 20 percent. He was not just removed from the starting lineup—he was effectively benched. Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats both played ahead of him, as the Steelers were unwilling to expose him to special teams, yet he has done that since coming to New England.
Harrison also talked about the comments from his former teammates, who accused him basically of being insubordinate, and even a bad teammate, and certainly not a leader. The 39-year-old chalked up most of what was said to hurt feelings.
“They were talking from emotions, you know, they hurt”, he told reporters of the likes of Bud Dupree, Maurkice Pouncey, and Mike Mitchell, who were among the most significant players to go on record. “You aren’t surprised when someone’s talking from emotions about being hurt”.
I posed the question yesterday how Harrison’s legacy in Pittsburgh has evolved since his release and subsequent signing with the Patriots. It currently remains rather divisive, but it will be interesting to see what that looks like a year from now, or at the end of his career, and five years after that.