When I hear things like "Roger Goodell is a crook," or "he's a puppet," or ""If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn't do it," I assume I'm just hearing SteelerBro right after a fine had been levied.
Never did I think that even the fiesty, angry James Harrison would say those things on the record, which he did to Men's Journal in a teaser to a full interview, which will be in their August edition.
Perhaps we let out a chuckle when we read it. Maybe even a guffaw. But Harrison doesn't stop with Der Kommissar, either. Among those targeted in his seemingly unprovoked assault interview are Tedi Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Brian Cushing.
Last, but not close to least, and the reason this does not bode well for Harrison, he spews venom at teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall.
(UPDATE: SBNation's Joel Thorman reports that, per a Twitter post from an ESPN producer, Harrison was scheduled to appear on SportsCenter Wednesday evening, but has since backed out. Thorman also reported the Men's Journal interview was "done back in April or May.")
(UPDATE: Mendenhall responds via Twitter, "I dont have a problem with what [Harrison] said because I know him," also points to statistics showing only two fumbles during the regular season.)
(UPDATE: Art Rooney II: "I have not yet seen the article in Men's Journal, nor have I spoken to James Harrison about his comments. We will discuss the situation at the appropriate time, when permitted once the labor situation is resolved.")
The full text of the Men's Journal interview will be available next month, but ESPN reports a particularly brutal quote taken from that interview about Roethlisberger attributed to Harrison:
"Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain't that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does."
ESPN also quotes Harrison in the article as referring to Mendenhall as a "fumble machine."
Hard to argue with the context of what Harrison is saying; Roethlisberger did not play well in the playoffs overall, but ironically, unlike Manning, Roethlisberger is known for making individual plays in big moments as opposed to the full body of the game. A few key plays from him got the Steelers to the Super Bowl.
It's even harder to argue with the criticism of Mendenhall. His fumble in the second half of the Super Bowl deflated all of the momentum the Steelers had at that point. If he doesn't fumble, the Steelers score on that drive, and win the game. Mendenhall is the MVP. No one can convince me otherwise.
The timing, the motivation and the method of that criticism, though, will drive a stake square down the center of the team.
Harrison's frustration is understandable, and while I'll admit I love reading quotes from Harrison more than any other player alive (probably most dead ones too), this is stuff that should be saved for the locker room.
The whole interview fails to answer the one question Steelers fans will have of Harrison; "What do you have to gain from this?" The world knows the unlikeliness of Goodell standing in Harrison's wedding party, and he's been more than clear on his disdain for the man and his policies. What good can possibly come from his Festivus-like airing of greivances?
As for Roethlisberger and Mendenhall, they are publically embarrassed enough from less-than-stellar performances (or, in Mendenhall's case, one poor play in an otherwise fine playoff performance). Why rub salt in their wounds by announcing to the world you favor another team's passer more, or liken a running back to a robot programmed to do nothing else but drop the football?
Will that make any of them play better? Perhaps. There's something to be said for negative motivation, or stoking their competitive fires. But it sucks the harmony from the team's colective song. In what will likely to be a truncated pre-season, harmonious teams with strong veteran cohesion and leadership have a huge advantage going into the regular season.
Harrison's quotes do nothing but rob the Steelers of that harmony.