Former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison recently made headlines for perhaps the final time in relation to his playing days when he went on an interview tour around the sports networks, often taking his former team to task in a blunt and honest take on what he believes the team needs to do to improve.
His comments were much-discussed both within the Steelers’ fanbase and outside of it. There are few people more directly associated with the team over the course of the past decade and a half than he is, so his remarks about the organization’s failings were given serious consideration.
At least by those on the outside. Head Coach Mike Tomlin, one of the primary targets of Harrison’s remarks, was not particularly interested in which his former player had to say. “I don’t think a lot about it to be quite honest with you”, he said when asked for comment yesterday. “He has an opinion, he’s entitled to it. He doesn’t play for us right now. I’m focused on 2018. That soap opera stuff, I’ll let you guys play that game”.
There didn’t appear to be a lot of support among his former teammates for his position either, though he also didn’t get much support when he left—or at least not after he signed with the New England Patriots, about whom he has since spoken in virtually glowing admiration.
Cameron Heyward is one of the longest-tenured players on the current roster, and so has had more history in working with Tomlin than most. He has watched his interactions with players of all levels over the past eight years, and doesn’t seem to agree with Harrison that every player ought to be treated in the same way.
The defensive captain was even asked by a reporter in response to Harrison’s comments regarding equitable treatment if he noticed anybody in the locker room feeling slighted. Heyward’ response was,
“I was a first-round pick and you didn’t see me start right away, so it’s all in the eye of the beholder”, he noted. “James is entitled to his opinion, but for me personally, I had to work my way up. And I’m going to continue to work, and I think he treats everybody the way he wants to treat them, but it’s all in the way you look at it”.
Going into further detail, Heyward elaborated, “I think some people need to be worked more, some people don’t. But that’s my understanding of players. It’s never a slight. James was in a totally different situation coming back and being a veteran presence, going through some stuff. For me to judge how he judged the thing, it’s completely different”.
Personally, I’ve never heard of anybody coming away from his interactions with the Steelers organization as feeling slighted. In fact, we routinely hear about the opposite. Alejandro Villanueva has repeatedly spoken about the impression the organization made on him for the way he was treated with respect when he was just a practice squad guy learning how to play tackle.