What better way can you invite criticism than to not only fail on your part in reaching your own goals, but to have that which you cast aside aid in achieving the goals of another group against which you compete? I struggle to think of a more profound scenario to bring down righteous indignation.
Unfortunately, that is where the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves, though it would be a much different story had that not failed on their own. In a season filled with so much drama, one storyline in particular has attracted a certain segment, that being the saga of James Harrison and how it came to be that he was chasing down Blake Bortles not for Pittsburgh, but for the New England Patriots.
Now the Steelers are already working on signing players to Reserve/Future contracts and preparing for free agency and the draft while Harrison is with Tom Brady in preparation for, he hopes, winning the third ring of his NFL career.
We will never know the full story, as there will inevitably be a mixture of half-truths coming from both sides of the equation. Harrison feels as though he was promised playing time that he did not receive, and even into the season he was manipulated into believing that he would play, only to not see the field.
According to other reports, this knowledge, coupled with his repeated requests to be released, led to him becoming an insubordinate, either not attending meetings or falling asleep in meetings and generally not being a participant in the position group.
Bud Dupree was among those who had the harshest words for him, but they have often fallen on deaf ears simply because Dupree is not very well-respected by many fans based on his performance.
Harrison clearly did not return to Pittsburgh believing that he would spend the vast majority of his time sitting on the sidelines. Many fault the Steelers for the way in which they handled him. Many continue to fault Harrison for the way that they handled himself.
But as we sit at the eve of Harrison playing in a Super Bowl with the Patriots, and the Steelers sit at home preparing to watch along with everybody else after being eliminated by the team that New England just eliminated, the focus has come not on how things ended, but how they began.
With the drafting and development of T.J. Watt, who was used frequently for his coverage ability, Harrison was receiving very little playing time, but most tend to be of the belief that he should have been seeing playing time.
The 39-year-old has seen more than twice the amount of playing time in three games with the Patriots than he did in 14 games with the Steelers. And he even saw some snaps on special teams, which was a frequently-cited reason for his being inactive at times—cited, in full disclosure, by myself.
There is certainly room for criticism on the part of the Steelers for the way that their relationship with Harrison soured. There is plenty of room for criticism on the part of Harrison for the way that he conducted himself. Why did it end up this way? We may never have a complete picture. We can only witness the aftermath.