When the NE Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers meet in the NFL Playoffs in January, bragging rights and a trip to the Super Bowl will be at stake. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will definitely go through the NE Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Former Steeler LB James Harrison is the all-time sack leader for the franchise. He will be starting the New Year with the NE Patriots who in all likelihood will be blocking the path of the Steelers to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Things got heated up with Harrison as the starting outside LB with a test drive against the New York Jets on New Year’s Eve in Foxboro. It was just one week ago he was kicked to the curb by the Steelers. He played 14 of his 15 NFL seasons there. In social media on Friday December 29th the 39-year old Harrison held his own press conference via Instagram and said, “I asked to be released, but was repeatedly told I would play. If anybody thought I signed a two-year deal with a team in the NFL at the age of 39 to sit on the bench and collect a check and a participation trophy, they were mistaken.” He appeared in just 5 games in the 2017 season with the Steelers.
Harrison is one of my favorite players in the NFL. I like his competitive and winning spirit. He reminded me of myself as an athlete, in spirit only. I was nowhere near the athlete he is, but attitude, I always took the field of play thinking I was the best—it is there we are similar.
As the season was coming to a close I watched Harrison pout and squirm on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ bench. I knew it was just a matter of time before he and Mike Tomlin would butt heads.
It is often said, “It is best to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” Former Steeler teammates should have taken heed. Many of Harrison’s former teammates were not to happy with him signing with their rivals in Foxboro, but he cleared that up quick and in a hurry. He said, “The Steelers made a business decision and so did I!”
One teammate LB Bud Dupree was quoted saying, “Basically you spit on your teammates, because the whole season you’ve been shown as someone different than what you were supposed to be, a so-called leader to us. The spit Dupree was referring to was the spit aimed at the team’s head coach and owner. He also said, “It is no one’s fault on our team why he got cut—he cut himself. He came in, and he didn’t want to do anything to make us better.” The team’s center Maurkrice Pouncey said, ‘He erased his own legacy here.’ Harrison’s legacy will outlive Pouncey’s, unless he becomes the sack leader before his career ends in Pittsburgh.
This is where Coach Mike Tomlin missed the boat as a coach and leader of men. He should have called a meeting of his team and staff and reminded them, “Please no bulletin board material that the NE Patriots or Harrison can use for their next meeting in Foxboro, let your actions speak for themselves.”
The quotes coming out of the Pittsburgh locker room should be the one used by someone who is deaf (sign language). There is an old saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie!” Pro sports are overrun with liars and hypocrites, James Harris didn’t live a lie, he wanted out and his actions didn’t lie.
The James Harrison situation hits close to home for me. I clearly remember my senior year on the basketball team at Spingarn High School in Washington, DC. The summer of 1958 I chose to spend my time on the playgrounds developing my jump shot for the upcoming campaign. My previous role, I was used as the team’s defensive stopper against our opponent’s top scorer.
The role was not glamorous enough for me I needed and wanted to see my name in the local papers. My new role didn’t sit well with my Coach Dr. William Roundtree. I was benched for selfishness (bad attitude) and then cut to make room for a member of the junior varsity. Coach Roundtree, understood if I was allowed to sit on the bench, I would be nothing short of a cancer to my teammates.
I transferred to our rival Eastern High School, they were in first place in our division. The Eastern Coach Bobby Hart welcomed me with open arms. Eastern was loaded with talent and I would probably have to play a secondary role. I was ready for whatever role Mr. Hart wanted me to play, but Coach Roundtree and the Spingarn administrators bust my bubble when they protested directly to Eastern against my joining the team. Mr. Hart called me into his office and reluctantly gave me the bad news, I would not be allowed to suit up against my old school. It was a business decision and I was on the short-end of business.
In 1963, my first year out of college I played minor league football for the Charleston Rockets in Charleston, West Virginia and former NFL Coach Perry Moss. I was the last WR cut and the four that made the final roster were all white. It was another business decision. My ego was a little bruised, but I made my way back home to DC and caught on with the Virginia Sailors. Here I would also have a similar encounter. The Sailors were a farm team for the NFL Washington Redskins. Again, I thought I was “The straw that stirred the drink.” My attitude, I was always open and never saw a football I could not catch. This “see me” thought pattern kept me in hot water with my coach Billy Cox (former Redskin player).