In a season that’s had more dramatic storylines than in recent memory, the saga that is the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers took a strange twist on Tuesday, one that would rival any Star Wars fan wishing Luke Skywalker was still around to battle the First Order.
After an unexpected release by the club he called home for 14 of his 15 NFL campaigns, James Harrison took little time to wait around and have a chance to play meaningful ball this year.
And the club he chose, or perhaps chose him, to extend his playing career is none other than Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Tuesday the news moved quickly how Harrison was in Foxborough to meet with the Patriots. It was only a matter of time before news broke confirming the fear of Silverback donning the red, white and blue of the NFL’s version of Satan and various scenarios began running rampant through fans’ heads.
During his weekly press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin deflected when asked what conversation took place between he and Harrison regarding his release. “We make the decisions we feel give us the very best chance to win,” Tomlin said. “We needed the people we kept. We needed to activate Marcus Gilbert. There’s really nothing more to it than that.”
Harrison has managed to take the field for just 40 snaps all season. Yet, defensive lineman Dan McCullers was kept over the veteran linebacker, he of just 11 plays all season.
Tomlin hinted at a possible return by Harrison later in his presser saying, “The door is always left open for anyone we stop doing business with,” Tomlin said referring to Harrison. “That’s no different than any of the decisions that we’ve had to make over the season if someone is unemployed.”
That door is staying shut.
And a new one at an address in Foxborough, Massachusetts, has apparently been opened.
Now one can debate the move the Steelers made regarding Harrison. He’s been mostly a healthy scratch, if you will, for a good portion of the schedule, playing very little since his sack of Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith in the final seconds of the team’s road win back in October.
And I’m not going to sit here and pretend Harrison is going to make a huge impact on the Patriots’ defense which has carried itself very well during the season. Good enough to hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC as we approach the final week of the regular season.
Nonetheless, we all know what this move really shows. It’s just another example of the mind games the Patriots play with their opponents. The perpetual bully toying with the 98-pound weakling in the schoolyard.
The Patriots own the Steelers, and have done so for the better part of the past 15 years. They’ve been better prepared, possessed superior talent and employed a coaching staff that gets it done down to the last little details. It’s why they’ve hoisted five Vince Lombardi Trophies vs. two for the Steelers in those 15 years.
Time will tell if this is a move which benefits the Pats. I can’t sit here and predict it will, only that it’s just another reason why New England stays ahead of the Steelers in more ways than just picking up a 39-year-old linebacker on his last legs of competitive play.
This is about mental superiority. The ability to try to get into the head of your biggest rival, or at least a team that has the capability of knocking you off of the mountain top. The Patriots enjoy a mental edge over the Steelers, period.
Tuesday’s signing of James Harrison is another example of that, and their desire to keep it that way.
John Phillips is the author of this article and a member of the BTSC writing community since 2014. You can follow JP on Facebook if you can find him.