When James Harrison called it a career, many who cover the Pittsburgh Steelers, and their global fan base, wondered what Harrison’s legacy would be with the Steelers? Fans forgave him for leaving in free agency and going to the Cincinnati Bengals, but when he was released and went to the New England Patriots at the end of 2017, it seemed as if it were more than just choosing a new home.
It felt personal, and not just with the fan base. Harrison’s teammates ripped him publicly to the media when he was released.
So, what now? What does the future hold with Harrison and the Pittsburgh Steelers? Harrison recently spoke with Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and talked about everything from why he decided to hang up the cleats, even with the Patriots wanting his services for one more year, to if he would return for reunions.
Does Deebo have beef with the Steelers organization/fan base?
“I have no problem with the Steelers family,’’ said Harrison. “I have no problem with the Rooneys. They made a business decision that was best for their organization. I made a business decision that was best for me and family at the time. We went our separate ways.
“Fans get mad because they’re stuck with a team, one team, that’s their team. At the end of the day, it’s a business. Yes, you have loyalties to teams, but when it comes down to it, it’s a job, and when your job fires you, you need to find another job.”
But what about what his teammates, like Bud Dupree and Maurkice Pouncey said?
“There were a lot of things said, and I think a lot of guys said things because, hey, they were hurt, and when you’re hurt, you say things you may not normally say.
“If you go now, you see players say how James Harrison ‘helped me so much, I wouldn’t be the same player,’ etc. You have to look at the situation what happened, then you have to understand who is saying what, and the fact no one else is coming out and agreeing with it.”
Harrison spoke of the message sent by Steelers President Art Rooney II upon his retirement, and, according to Bouchette, is open to returning to the black-and-gold for gatherings and reunions.
Harrison said he saw the message and that there are no hard feelings on his part and, if invited, he will turn out for reunions and other gatherings.
Just like many football divorces, it seems as if time may heal all wounds. For as angry as fans were when Harrison was released and chose the Patriots, you can’t ignore the massive plays he made for the Steelers while donning the black-and-gold. His Super Bowl 43 interception returned for a touchdown, the numerous Joe Flacco sacks, his interception and leap over LaDainian Tomlinson...among many others.
It may sting now, but Harrison seems to be heading into his retirement with a pretty level head about his situation, both personally and with the Steelers.