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James Harrison's legacy with the Steelers is ultimately up to you

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How will James Harrison's ugly departure from the Steelers organization last season ultimately define his legacy? I guess that's up to you.

NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

He erased himself. He erased his own legacy here.

That quote came from Steelers Pro Bowl center and team leader, Maurkice Pouncey, late last season, following the ugly departure of legendary outside linebacker, James Harrison, who, upon his release from the team, quickly signed with the hated Patriots right before the start of the playoffs.

It’s hard to say what left a nastier taste in Pouncey’s mouth: Harrison’s decision to sign with New England or his season-long antics that led to the freedom which gave him the option to wear those red, white and blue colors, a decision that, as far as Pittsburgh football is concerned, is about as treacherous an act as one can think of.

As the result of seeing just 40 snaps behind rookie sensation, T.J. Watt, Harrison became disgruntled over the course of the 2017 season, so disgruntled, in fact, he not only asked to be released multiple times, he slept during meetings, failed to mentor the younger outside linebackers and didn’t stick around for games in-which he was deactivated.

Harrison’s main bone of contention was that he was supposedly promised 20-25 percent of the snaps during the season, which heavily weighed into his decision to return to Pittsburgh for one more year.

There’s no doubt that may have been the original plan, but nobody could have foreseen the kind of impact Watt would have right out of the gate.

Whether he liked it or not (and he obviously did not), there was a clear changing of the guard at right outside linebacker last season, a position Harrison manned to a legendary degree in Pittsburgh for the better part of a decade.

Harrison’s accomplishments during his time in Pittsburgh included five Pro Bowls, one Defensive Player of the Year award (2008), 80.5 quarterback sacks (a franchise record) and two Super Bowl victories (XL and XLIII).

Speaking of championships, Harrison may have arguably been the most responsible for the Steelers last victory parade--a parade in-which No. 92 was given the honor of holding the organization’s record-setting sixth Lombardi as he soaked in the adulation of the fans--thanks to his interception and 100-yard jaunt to pay-dirt on the last play of the first half of a Super Bowl that was ultimately decided with mere seconds left to play.

Mean. Tough. Defiant. Harrison embodied everything Steelers fans love in their defenders. To say he was one of the most beloved players during his time in Pittsburgh would be an accurate assessment.

Harrison took to social media on Monday to announce his retirement.

It’s not the first time Harrison has announced his retirement.

In fact, 18 months after his release in the spring of 2013--followed by a mostly forgettable season with the Bengals--Harrison signed a one-day contract with the Steelers late in the summer of 2014 just so he could officially end his career with the team that gave him his chance.

But then he was quickly coaxed out of retirement due to injury and played the better part of four more years in Pittsburgh.

Some have said Harrison should sign yet another one-day contract with the Steelers in-order to erase the ugliness of last season.

But will that really matter?

At the end of the day, a player’s legacy has very little to do with how ugly the departure from the organization may have been.

It’s shaped by how people remember him.

Last summer, receiver Santonio Holmes signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a Steeler, but thanks to his off-the-field antics that limited his on-the-field potential (as well as his time as a Steeler), it’s doubtful Holmes--the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII and the guy who caught the game-winning touchdown in those aforementioned final seconds--will ever have much of a legacy in Pittsburgh.

Speaking of Super Bowl heroes, was there an uglier parting of the ways than the one between the Steelers and Franco Harris 34 years ago?

When anyone thinks of Harris’ training camp holdout in the summer of 1984, followed by his unfortunate release, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

”Franco who?”

That quote came from the mouth of head coach Chuck Noll that summer, when asked about the contract situation of a running back that helped him win four Super Bowls.

Harris tried to continue his career with the Seahawks that season before quietly galloping off into the sunset.

Did Harris resent Noll’s words?

No doubt about it.

Did the departure permanently stain No. 32’s legacy in Pittsburgh?

Absolutely not, and why?

Because we don’t remember Franco’s final summer with the Steelers. We remember the 12 autumns that preceded it. We remember those four Super Bowls. We remember the Immaculate Reception.

Word is, the relationship between the Steelers and Troy Polamalu is a pretty cold one right now, following a 12-year career that may have ended a season or two sooner than the latter would have liked.

But let’s say Polamalu never returns to Heinz Field for any reunions, will that hurt his legacy?

Doubtful.

Jack Lambert hasn’t been seen around these parts since maybe the mid-00’s, and you can’t find a more popular Steeler from those legendary 70’s Super Bowl teams.

So, is the relationship between Harrison and the Steelers organization a bit strained right now?

Absolutely.

Will Harrison’s less than savory final departure define his Steelers legacy in a negative way?

I guess that’s up to you.