I’d wish everyone a Happy Spring...but if you’re a Patriots fan, odds are you live in the Northeast and thus celebrated the arrival of a new season by shoveling snow and clearing sidewalks. So until the thermometers actually start giving a respectable temperature, I’m going to put all my good Spring wishes on hold.
However, since we’re all still holed up inside, may as well kill some time by continuing our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Moments of 2017.
The list so far:
20. Back-to-back touchdowns before the half against the New York Jets help the Patriots secure the #1 Seed in the AFC.
19. A one-handed Dion Lewis grab is pretty much the only thing that goes right against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.
Just as a massive snowstorm at the beginning of Spring is pretty unexpected, our Number 18 Moment was another major surprise that no Patriots fan ever would have seen coming.
18. The Patriots pick up James Harrison.
James Harrison is one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time great players. An undrafted free agent signed by Pittsburgh in 2002, Harrison went on to become a staple of the defense as a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl Champion. Harrison had brief stints with AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati, but the Steelers were his team - so much so that he came out of retirement in 2014 to help them out after a string of injuries decimated the Pittsburgh defense. And since the man is an absolute monster, he of course dominated, became the Steelers’ all-time sack leader in 2016, and earned himself a two year contract extension in March of 2017. Much like his rival Tom Brady, Father Time has absolutely no clue where this guy lives - a fact made all that much more impressive by the fact that Harrison is taking hits every single play and makes a living tackling people.
However, through the first 12 weeks of the 2017 season, Harrison had logged only 29 snaps, with over half of them coming in a Week 6 matchup against the Chiefs. He was a healthy scratch for most of the season, only dressing for five games, and Harrison felt that he had been lies to by coach Mike Tomlin regarding what his role would be with the team. There were conflicting stories regarding how the locker room felt about him, how Tomlin felt about him, what kind of teammate he was, and how he was handling the way he was being utilized. Everyone had theories, but nobody had any definitive answers, and on December 23rd, 2017, the Steelers released James Harrison.
On December 26th, he signed with the Patriots.
Nobody could believe it. Steelers fans were irate. Patriots fans were in shock. New England’s defense had been having tremendous issues with their pass rush in 2017, and while Harrison was undoubtedly in the twilight of his career at 39, he immediately provided depth and experience to a defensive line that had been experiencing difficulty collapsing the pocket. Harrison debuted against the New York Jets in Week 17 of the regular season, where he registered two sacks and five total tackles as the Patriots cruised to a 26-6 victory.
It would have been nice for James Harrison to have gotten a third ring for his resume...but what can you do. He provided a nice boost to a position of need, and the move ticked off a lot of people on the process. The Patriots and Steelers aren’t exactly rivals, as New England has more or less had Pittsburgh’s number over the years, but whenever your team signs a cornerstone player away from another team that hates you (which is pretty much every team in the NFL when it comes to the Patriots), it’s a net positive. Harrison’s signing brought some life to a struggling defense, gave Patriots fans a nice little Christmas gift, and irked Steelers fans to the point where they spent way more time than they should have rationalizing the move away. And for that, it’s earned a nice spot here at Number 18.
Check out some highlights from Harrison’s stint as a Patriot here.