If we were still making “Hold my beer” jokes (that line sure had a good run in 2017, though!), this whole James Harrison & the Steelers situation would go something like:
NBA: You want grudges, bad blood, and guys wearing custom sneakers specifically to mess with other guys? We got it!
NFL: (insert punchline here)
Harrison, of course, signed with the New England Patriots after being cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers when most of us were still in our post-Christmas food coma, and the Steelers’ all-time sack leader made it pretty clear that what he thought he signed up for wasn’t what went down this year. To hear him tell it, Pittsburgh had promised him a “part-time” linebacker role, which apparently turned into James only appearing in 5 games so far, and 11 of his 40 snaps this year came against the Ravens a couple weeks ago. Harrison didn’t play at all against New England in the AFC heavyweight fight a couple weeks ago.
(For context purposes, according to our man Evan Lazar’s snap counts, Patriots EDGE defender Deatrich Wise logged 29 snaps just last week against the Bills, and that was 41% of New England’s defensive snaps that week. Freaking JORDAN. RICHARDS. played 29 snaps this week too, so...yeah. Saying James Harrison was a bench-warmer might be insulting. To bench-warmers.)
Anyway, in a development absolutely nobody saw coming from a team that’s had at least two very public social media beefs and/or snafus over the past year, quite a few Steelers players are publicly throwing Harrison under the bus for, well, you’ll see. Suffice to say, if the old Taylor Swift can’t come to the phone right now because, oh, she’s dead, the new Taylor Swift would be quite proud.
Linebacker Bud Dupree (who you may remember from when he ruined Matt Moore’s life last season)
According to Paul Zeise of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, linebacker Bud Dupree said during a weekly radio spot that “Harrison would leave the stadium as soon as he found out he was inactive the past four or five weeks, often didn’t practice or attend meetings and rarely would come in the locker room.” Dupree also said Harrison “wouldn’t visit Ryan Shazier in hospital, either.”
Via Sean Gentille of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dupree confirmed that Harrison wanted out.
“It feels like he went to the Patriots just to spit in Coach Tomlin and Mr. Rooney’s face,” Dupree said. “That’s all it was to us. Like basically you spit on your teammates, you spit on us because the whole season you’ve been shown as someone different than what you were supposed to, so-called, be to us — other than a leader.”
“It is disappointing because when I came into the NFL my two idols were [Harrison] and [Porter],” Dupree said, per Zeise. “I looked up to [Harrison] and wanted to learn from him but he didn’t want to be a mentor to us, like he didn’t want T.J. [Watt] and me to be better than him.”
Center Maurkice Pouncey (from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
“He erased himself,” Pouncey said Wednesday. “He erased his own legacy here. Let’s be serious. ... I would think so, as a fan. [It’s] crazy. It blows my mind.”
“He wanted that,” Pouncey said. “It wasn’t like the team said, ‘We’re going to let go of James Harrison. James Harrison wanted that. ... Yeah, it’s funny to read the stories like, it’s something that he wanted to do, you know what I’m saying? It’s not like they got together and said, ‘Oh, we’re going to go cut James.’ No, that’s not what happened. And he needs to come out and admit that.”
“It ain’t no problem. … We don’t care. Bye. Have fun.”
And what would a story like this be without an anonymous team source?
(again from Pro Football Talk)
Via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, a team source said that Harrison would “sleep in a recliner chair during position meetings and snore loudly while [linebackers coach] Joey Porter would teach.”
The stories are flying from everywhere. The image of the franchise's leader leaving stadiums early -- word from the locker room is that he drove home from Cincinnati in a rental car -- is sort of ridiculous.
Maybe not quite as ridiculous as Lane Kiffin getting fired by USC on the airport tarmac at 3am, but a solid contender nonetheless!