Oh, I hoped this wouldn’t happen. First of all, I had hoped Harrison would be a Steeler for life. My old-fashioned ideas don’t fit with the business realities and I understand that, but I can hope. When the negotiations started, I honestly thought that Harrison and his agent had misread the market for a veteran linebacker with an injury history as well as a history of player fines. I was sorry to see that they didn’t reach an agreement, but not surprised. Next, I wondered what teams would court Harrison. If James Harrison was going to sign with another team, I did not want to see the Steelers face him twice in the regular season. When he flirted with signing with the Ravens, I was really disappointed. I breathed a sigh of relief when that didn’t go through. Then things got quiet and I began to wonder if Harrison would get any other offers. I bet he wondered too.
I love James Harrison and the identity he built as a Steeler. There are many out there who think he is a dirty player. I really didn’t see it that way and maybe I’m just a “homer.” However, I do think he acknowledged that the league rules were changing and he better change or it would move past him. If you look at his fines last year, they were down, but so were his numbers.
Now, it looks as if the Cincinnati Bengals and Harrison will reach a deal this week. Again, I’m NOT happy that he is likely going to play against the Steelers twice in the regular season. I guess I should caveat that with, as long as he is healthy, I see him as a big threat lining up on the other side of Roethlisberger. Just the thought of him coming at you, can be enough to distract a quarterback. I don’t want to see him knock Ben out of the game either and I think he can still do it.
I do have one or two beefs with the reactions to the news.
First: I take issue with an article that USA Today published online written by Joe Reedy. You can look at it here. He called Harrison “revenge-minded” and the article title is being retweeted all over the place. While I can imagine that Harrison wants to prove he can still play at a high level, I think the term “revenge-minded” is downright inflammatory. I also think Mr. Reedy needs to check his facts:
When it comes to the Steelers, it is going to be even more personal. Harrison was made the fall guy in Pittsburgh’s decision to reduce payroll. Instead of LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu also being asked to restructure, it was Harrison who was given the option to take a pay cut or be released.
I am not sure about the details of Polamalu’s contract, but Woodley (as well as several other Steelers) DID restructure in mid-March according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I have no idea what exactly happened between the Steelers and Harrison, but Reedy is trying to fuel some sort of vendetta that may not be there. He is also setting Harrison up for a no-win situation. If any Steelers player gets hurt because of a tackle from Harrison, it will be labeled “revenge.” However, if Harrison doesn’t get any tackles, etc., then the Bengals fans may decide he was being soft on the Steelers and wasn’t playing hard for their team. I realize Harrison just wants to play football, but the division rivalries in the AFC North are no joke.
Here’s my second beef: To all the Steelers fans who are posting profanity-laced derogatory comments on James Harrison’s Facebook page and Twitter timeline, please stop! I think you can be disappointed without taking it to that extreme. What a poor representation those of you are for Steeler Nation. I’m not saying you shouldn’t express your opinion, but really, why attack the man? I looked back at Harrison’s pages and I think he or his PR reps are deleting the most offensive comments. What a shame that people are doing that. On the good side, I’m happy to see that people are also posting positive comments.
I’m sorry to see that Harrison is no longer a Steeler. However, I respect him for his contributions to the team and TWO out of the SIX Superbowl championships for the Steelers. He represented the Steelers five times in the Pro Bowl too and has numerous awards in his professional career. He’s had his troubles with the league and he’s made some inflammatory comments along the way. However, James Harrison has never pretended to be something he’s not. Best Wishes to you James. I wish you weren’t signing in the division because it will be hard to root against you. But I’m a Steelers fan, so I will.