Steelers News

Updated: Art Rooney II Forced To Deny James Harrison’s Insinuation Tomlin Paid His Fine For Illegal Hit In 2010

Earlier this week during an interview with co-host Willie Colon on the Going Deep podcast, former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison made the claim that, after being fined for his hit on former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010 that ultimately drew a $75,000 fine, head coach Mike Tomlin handed him an envelope.

While he coyly declined to say what was in the envelope, the clear implication was that Tomlin gave him money to cover his fine. As the story has begun to disseminate, the team has been forced to address it, with owner Art Rooney II issuing the following statement:

“I am very certain nothing like this ever happened. I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this.”

The 2011 season was when the NFL began to crack down on illegal hits by levying heavy fines to players. This was an in-season change to the way that they enforced existing rules, following a sudden rash of injuries that put a negative light on the league. Harrison became the poster boy for illegal hits as a result of this.

“On my daddy’s grave, I hit that man with what, about max 50 percent of what I had”, he said of the hit, “and I had just hit him because I wanted him to let loose of the ball”.

He added, “the G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did–he handed me an envelope after that. I ain’t gonna say what, but he handed me an envelope after that”. In the same game, Harrison also struck Joshua Cribbs in the helmet, but that hit was not fined, because Cribbs was a runner. Both were diagnosed with concussions and left the game.

Later in the year, Harrison would be fined another $20,000 after an illegal hit against New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Another hit against Vince Young brought him a $5000 fine, bringing his total fine amount to $100,000.

“The amount of money is becoming an issue”, he said after receiving the fine for the Brees hit, according to CBS. “The fines that they issued to me, two of them weren’t even called penalties. I don’t even know what to say anymore”.

With the news circulating today, Saints head coach Sean Payton, for some reason, was asked to comment upon it. He told Jason La Canfora that people “shouldn’t hold their breath” if they’re waiting for the league to investigate Harrison’s implied claim that Tomlin reimbursed him the money for his fine. “I would be shocked” if they looked into it, he added, as Mike Florio transcribed.

“That’ll be something that’s tucked away under the rug at Park Avenue. They’ll look into it briefly. Listen, don’t get me started on that. I lost $6 million in salary, and honestly it was something that I’ll never truly get over because I know how it was handled and how it was run and the reasons behind it. That’s just the truth”.

Update: Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reached out to Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, who continues to represent him. He denied that this ever took place. “James and I are still together”, he told the reporter. “We were really close during our 18 years. He would have said something along the way”.

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