Bengals James Harrison insists no grudges held against former-employer Steelers

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Several reports claiming Harrison passionately hated his previous employers in Pittsburgh struck a nerve with his former fanbase. The new Bengals linebacker is now trying to extinguish those flames.

It was only a matter of time before James Harrison's private free-agency tour of the AFC North was connected to an understandable grudge he may have held against his former employer, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who released the former Defensive Player of the Year due to NFL salary cap constraints, after the team and player were unable to agree on terms to reduce his pay.

According to Harrison, any such hate towards the city of Pittsburgh or the Steelers organization never existed; nor did he intentionally peruse only his former team's division for a chance at retribution.

"There was no significance in staying in the AFC North. My thing was I wanted to play with a team that was competitive and had a chance of winning a Super Bowl. I felt like Baltimore and Cincinnati were those teams.

"The second thing I wanted was to stay close to home. I currently live in Pittsburgh and that's where I'm going to reside. I really didn't want to have to go farther away than I had to."

"I don't have a chip on my shoulder against the Steelers. I don't hate the Steelers. All the things they're saying, that the media is blowing it up to be ... am I disappointed? Yeah, I'm disappointed. But when the negotiations first started, I basically knew the situation was going to be what it was going to be.

"I wish them the best, except for when we play. And I'm assuming they wish me the same, except when we play them."

Harrison's words to the media definitely contradict the reports suggesting he set out to spite the Steelers, however his life is about to become the ultimate contradiction. It is almost inconceivable to imagine Terrell Suggs, Vontaze Burfict or Joe Haden living peacefully within Pittsburgh's borders. Evidently, Harrison is not overly concerned with how his hometown will continue to receive him while he's wearing an enemy uniform.

The other contradiction in Harrison's comments revolve around the idea Harrison had his choice of where he would end up. He denies the verbal ad campaign his agent set upon once the Steelers released Harrison initially. He also makes no mention to the fact the Baltimore Ravens weren't even interested enough to entertain the negotiating process.

Obviously, Harrison expected to create more of a buzz when he became a free-agent following his release, which came as a result of his unwillingness to reduce his pay by a reported 30%, in a year the Steelers found themselves in desperate need of cap space. Unfortunately for Harrison, the rest of the league only confirmed the Steelers sentiment, forcing his agent to work overtime to find him a new job before finally winding up in Cincinnati.

The Bengals are more than happy with their new acquisition of the old Harrison, as they believe he will definitely improve an impressive young group. He's even been given his traditional No. 92. The Bengals are gambling on Harrison playing like the old Harrison, and not just an old Harrison - only a gamble because of the philosophical change between Pittsburgh's 3-4 and Cincinnati's 4-3.

While his signing pre-draft came as a surprise to many, no one in the AFC North is surprised someone was willing to bet on Harrison, whether he actually held a grudge against the Steelers or not.

The Bengals will play their first home game against the Steelers on Monday night, giving the aging linebacker a national audience as he attempts to exact his revenge on those who asked him to leave.

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