Philip G. Pavely/USA Today Sports

James Harrison defends himself: Signing with Patriots was 'business decision'

Alex Reimer
December 27, 2017 - 9:23 pm

James Harrison didn’t wait long to rebut his former Steelers teammates. On Wednesday, several Steelers mainstays unloaded on the franchise sack leader, accusing him of abandoning the team this season. Some of the harshest words belonged to center Maurkice Pouncey, who said Harrison’s alleged antics “erased his legacy” with the organization. 

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Harrison admitted to asking the Steelers on three occasions to release him. The decorated linebacker signed a two-year deal with the club last offseason, but was on the field for just 40 snaps over five games. Fifteen of those snaps came against the Chiefs in Week 6.

“I have to assume when they say you’re going to get 25 percent of the snaps and you get 25, safe to say things didn’t go as planned,” Harrison said. ““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. You go on your way and I’ll go on mine. They said, ‘No, no, no, we got a role for you.’ ” 

Harrison, 39, said he was promised playing time against the Patriots in Week 15. When that didn’t happen, he says his frustration reached new heights.

“If I didn’t play in the biggest game of the year, that told me I wouldn’t get any more snaps. So all that lip service you gave me before didn’t matter,” he explained.

The Steelers released Harrison Dec. 23, and the Patriots reached out shortly thereafter. Due to injury, New England is short on depth at linebacker.

Harrison, who says he consulted with linebacker coach Joey Porter, insists he made a business decision.

“I can’t sit there on ‘ifs,’ and I’m not playing. I wasn’t upset, I’m not mad, it’s a business,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I have to make a business decision.”

Unsurprisingly, Harrison claims his departure was more amicable than his ex-teammates. Linebacker Bud Dupree accused Harrison of leaving the stadium when he found out he was inactive, and said the disgruntled veteran would barely spend time in the locker room. Dupree also said Harrison never visited linebacker Ryan Shazier in the hospital after his spinal surgery. 

"I don't want the media to portray that we're the reason he left," Dupree told reporters. "That ain't the reason. He chose to leave. He made certain decisions and his actions got him to this circumstance."

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