Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison earlier this month sat down with Willie Colon on the Going Deep podcast for a lengthy conversation. There was so much meat on the bone from that interview that we’ve been trying to take small bites at a time.
The bulk of the coverage so far has been focused on criticism of some of the remarks that he made, and I maintain that my comments regarding what he said were fair. A vocal minority may disagree. But believe it or not, there were things that the former Steelers great said that weren’t actually incriminating.
In fact, while he acknowledges, as would be impossible not to, that he and head coach Mike Tomlin had their differences, at least toward the end of his career, he appreciates what the organization has done for him and for the time that he spent there.
“I had great experiences in Pittsburgh. I still like the Steelers, I like the Rooneys”, he said. “I even had heart-to-heart talks with Art about the situation and everything else, and I’m gonna keep those conversations between him and me. But I’m thankful for everything they’ve done for me”.
In February of 2018, Rooney talked about having spoken to Harrison about the way his career ended in Pittsburgh, and resolved that “there’s probably blame on both sides of the fence”. When Harrison announced his retirement, Rooney provided a short thank you message for the work that he did while with the team.
Harrison’s career extends back into the early 2000s, but the reality is that Tomlin was the one who gave him a chance to start, in 2007, and by the next year, he became the Defensive Player of the Year. He saw something in ‘Deebo’ that apparently Bill Cowher didn’t. Harrison understood that.
“I’m even thankful for Mike T, the things he’s done for me”, he told Colon. “At the same point in time, we have our little differences on that and that, but that’s not something that’s gonna terminate my relationship with Pittsburgh or the Steelers. All in all, it’s thumbs up. Great time”.
Some fans who remain steadfastly loyal to Harrison have taken issue with some things I’ve written about him, and particularly how I’ve written them. The truth is that, while I’ve been critical of some things he’s said and done, I really don’t take much issue with him. The biggest problem I have is the fact that he suggested that he was trying to injure people when he played, which I wrote about yesterday.
There area differences of opinion over how his end in Pittsburgh will affect his legacy. For me, I’m certainly never going to forget the great player that he was, truly an elite defender and a joy to watch play. That doesn’t mean he always knows what he’s talking about, though.