When the Pittsburgh Steelers released James Harrison, players were not really doing much talking about it, at least not in front of the cameras. That changed after he signed with the New England Patriots and cheesed for the camera with Tom Brady in a selfie.
Outside linebacker Bud Dupree has taken most of the heat for his comments and criticisms about a player whom he says was portrayed to him as a role model, but was more often anything but, though he was not the only one. Mike Mitchell and Maurkice Pouncey are among the others who offered public comments about Harrison after his move.
The six-time Pro Bowl center even went so far as to say that he “erased his legacy” in Pittsburgh by signing with the Patriots and with the way that he exited the team, but he did walk back from that during the Pro Bowl last week.
As Jeremy Fowler shares, Pouncey acknowledged that he had been “taking some of the heat” from his comments, obviously from fans who remain behind Harrison, “because I was talking about his legacy. When I say legacy, I was speaking like, you know how it is, you’re in Pittsburgh now”.
“For him to come back to Pittsburgh inside the locker room and organization, it’s different for him”, he went on. “Is he going to ruin his football legacy? F*** no. He won the MVP of the defense, 14-year career, he has so many accolades—that doesn’t erase it. But when you come back to Pittsburgh and you live there and your kids live there, all right, it’s a little different”.
He went back to his original quote and made note that he said “he erased his legacy here”, meaning in Pittsburgh, and as we have seen in our own comments sections, Harrison’s decision to sign with the Patriots has absolutely served to reshape how at least some fans view him and his legacy as a Steeler, for now.
Only time will tell how that might change. I’m sure 50 years from now, when few people even remember when it happened, it will largely be an afterthought. 20-year-olds who are just learning about Franco Harris probably don’t particularly care about where he finished his career, either.
While his reputation as a Steeler may have taken a hit, though, nobody can take away what he has done as a player, especially given that he was 29 years old when he became a starter. He has compiled 793 tackles, 84.5 sacks, eight interceptions, and 34 forced fumbles in his career, to go along with a safety and a touchdown scored.
He has been to the Pro Bowl five times, and was named an All-Pro four times, twice on the first team. In 2008, he was the Defensive Player of the Year, during which he recorded 101 tackles, 16 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and an interception.
Had he been able to produce earlier in his career, it is easy to wonder if he would not be a lock for the Hall of Fame. He certainly fulfills the informal requirement of being among the best players at his position of his era. And even some of those who want nothing to do with him right now will remember that in time.