- Several Pittsburgh Steelers players said veteran linebacker James Harrison forced the team to cut him last week.
- Harrison would reportedly sleep during team meetings and would often skip practices or leave games early if he was inactive.
- Several players said Harrison should make it clear that he wanted out, not the other way around.
Several Pittsburgh Steelers took exception with former linebacker James Harrison’s actions before and after his release from the team.
Harrison, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, was cut by the team on Saturday and then signed with the New England Patriots. He later told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac that he was unhappy with his playing time from the start of the season and asked to be released, only to be rebuked.
“After the first week of the season, I said to them, it’s clear you want to play your younger guys and I understand, so why don’t you release me,” Harrison said. “You go on your way and I’ll go on mine. They said, ‘No, no, no, we got a role for you.'”
Harrison also said after not playing against the New England Patriots in Week 15 that it was clear he did not have a role on the team.
However, several Steelers players spoke out against Harrison this week, taking issue with how he framed his release.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Harrison’s behavior forced the Steelers’ hand. Harrison would reportedly sleep in a reclining chair during positional meetings and snore loudly. Other times, Harrison would leave stadiums during games he was inactive and skip practices with injuries only to then work out by himself later on.
Center Maurkice Pouncey had perhaps the strongest reaction, saying Harrison “erased” his legacy with the Steelers by signing with the Patriots. He also said Harrison should admit that he wanted to leave the Steelers, not the other way around.
“If you didn’t wanna be here, just come out and say it. Don’t make it look like it’s the team’s fault and the organization,” Pouncey said. “You think the team wanted to get rid of James Harrison? Let’s be serious.”
Linebacker Bud Dupree said: “I don’t want the media to portray that we’re the reason he left. That ain’t the reason. He chose to leave. He made certain decisions, and his actions got him to this circumstance.”
Dupree also said on his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan that Harrison wouldn’t be able to tell the Patriots about the Steelers’ playbook.
“I didn’t see him in meetings, so I don’t know if he knows the plays or not,” Dupree said.
The Steelers-Patriots Week 15 showdown lived up the hype that came with a meeting between the AFC’s two best teams. If they should meet in the postseason, the rematch between Harrison and the Steelers will only make the game more compelling.