How Will the Steelers React to James Harrison’s Rant?

Playing in the AFC North comes with a special set of challenges in the NFL because of how well run the Steelers have been historically.  Many Browns fans wish that the Browns had a fraction of the leadership and culture that the Steelers have had as they have won Super Bowls over the years.  This culture is often defined by not only drafting and developing players, but also knowing when to say goodbye to them.  We aren’t just talking about run of the mill players either.  This isn’t like the Browns saying goodbye to Mike Sellers.  The Steelers have been willing to wave goodbye to some really talented players over the years.  With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what – if anything – the Steelers do with James Harrison who has called Roger Goodell a “crook” and a “devil,” while also ripping teammates Rashard Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger in an interview with Men’s Journal.

Oh, and he also decided posing in a menacing fashion brandishing firearms was the image that he wanted to project for himself, so there’s that.

There is no denying James Harrison’s talent.  When he isn’t body-slamming unruly Browns fans who are unlawfully running on the field (see below for video) Harrison is a really special talent. It really stinks to have to say that in Browns town about an undrafted free agent player from Kent State. Even that isn’t enough to guarantee Harrison’s future in Pittsburgh if their history is any kind of guidance to what they could do.

Consider Joey Porter, another wildly productive linebacker who was outspoken and competitive to the point of being an absolute menace on the football field. Porter is the guy who was ejected prior to a game against the Browns because he got into a fight with running back William Green. And even after that, Porter had to apologize – kind of – for using a homosexual slur to describe Browns tight end Kellen Winslow. “I didn’t mean to offend anybody but Kellen Winslow. I would just like to say it was a poor choice of words in the comment I made toward Winslow. If I offended anybody, I apologize for that.”

Considering all that, it isn’t much of a surprise that the Steelers eventually cut Porter in an off-season prior to paying him a million dollar roster bonus.  It had been a “down” year for Porter too, but to put it in perspective, he still recorded seven sacks in 14 games.  Yet the Steelers said goodbye to Porter and never looked back.

Similarly, the Steelers looked brilliant when they allowed Plaxico Burress to go his own way after he got himself into trouble on a gun charge as a member of the New York Giants.  Granted, it took a few years for him to get into trouble and nobody could have predicted that it would happen. Still, it just is another example where the Steelers looked good from a personnel standpoint.  Finally, there’s Santonio Holmes who was practically given away to the Jets for a 5th round pick after coming off some off-the-field problems and facing a multi-game suspension.

So who knows if James Harrison will get the chance to attempt decapitations in Steelers vs. Browns games this season?  The Steelers signed him to a contract that is scheduled to pay him a $900k roster bonus this year in addition to numbers north of $5 – $6 and $7 million in each of the next three years ending after the 2014 season when Harrison will be 36 years old.  The story isn’t told yet.  I am sure Harrison will have some comments today and over the course of the next month that will help determine what the Steelers will do.

As Browns fans who are largely jealous of the Steelers’ success and culture it will be interesting to watch to see how the Rooney family deals with yet another challenge.  Unluckily for us, they’ll likely come out smelling like a rose.

  • mgbode

    amazing that there has been more negative press about Steeler players this offseason than Bengal players (Mendenhall, Ward, Harrison vs. PacMan).

    Even more amazing that Big Ben is just a month away from his first offseason in 3 years without a rape charge (if the CBA agreement happens in the next couple weeks as seems to be assumed).

  • Painesville

    Unlikely I know, but if he were to be cut I’d love to see Holmgren swoop in and sign him. Character issues and all…this is the kind of FOOTBALL PLAYER this team needs.

  • oribiasi

    I sort of liken Harrison to Ray Lewis; big, nasty, physical defensive players who are feared and a little off-center, in terms of their psychological issues. It helps on the field, as no one wants to run at them; it doesn’t help off the field, when they run their mouths.

    That said, I would love to have some members of our team with the same on-field intensity. I look at Fujita as the polar opposite of a player; still a skilled and smart linebacker, but not as physically threatening.

    What we need is someone like Harrison or Lewis (with perhaps a speech impediment so he can’t make a fool of himself on TV) to put the fear of God in some hapless RBs and QBs.

  • Nate_4

    I love how Harrison hates Goodell for fining him, but I can guarantee if Harrison was on the other side of the ball and had to go over the middle to catch a pass he would be singing a different tune. I’d love for someone to knock him unconscious or give him a concussion so he would shut up already.

  • humboldt

    Harrison concerns me – I mean literally. From his actions on the field and his comments off of it, he seems like one of those guys who may struggle to find himself once his playing days are over and there are no longer outlets for his aggression.

    I hope I’m wrong, and that the gun picture above never carries any sort of prophetic quality. Even so, choosing that sort of imagery seems deeply revealing, and concerning.

  • Ghost To Most

    Jokers like this are the reason why I no longer care if the NFL has a season or not. These are the morons we cheer for each Sunday. If these clowns want to take a year off, let them. They are the ones with something to lose, not us. I may finally be forced to find something productive to do with my Sundays.

  • Vengeful Pat

    @Painesville, please be kidding. This guy just turned himself into a locker room cancer by publicly bad-mouthing two of the best players on his team… I have no desire to bring that idiot to Cleveland. A team as strong as the Steelers can probably withstand the words of a moron like that, but a team like the Browns who is desparately trying to establish itself absolutely cannot.

  • Robbie

    I’m torn on the whole thing. I want to be proud of the guys that I cheer for on Sunday and would have a hard time being proud of the thugs that play for the Steelers and Ravens. But, it appears you need that attitude to win.

    Actually, the toughest part is that the guys who play tough on Browns (i.e. TJ Ward) get lambasted by the media while they praise these other guys.

    Don’t know what to say… but I sure couldn’t be happy cheering for James Harrison. He’s a head-hunter just like Hines Ward.

  • Chucky Brown

    I dont foresee this having any ill effect on the steelers. its already been reported that he contacted Big Ben to let him know he was misrepresented in the article

    a winning culture, once solidified, is almost as hard to bring down as it was to construct

  • Robbie

    Oh… bad stuff only has positive effects on the Steelers. Ben does a face-plant into car wind shield and he’s playing golf a week later. KWII flips his motorcycle into some bushes and he nearly loses his leg. This will make them closer. They’ll name their next born children after one another.

  • CleSporTorture Doug

    That Harrison pic won’t play well in the sticks. Not exactly the image the NFL wants to project, i’d wager.