James Harrison

Steelers Notes: Harrison, Tomlin, Ebron

Notorious cheap-shot artist and Steelers icon James Harrison last set foot on the field in 2017, but he is back in the headlines today. In an interview on Barstool Sports’ “Going Deep” podcast, Harrison said that Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin handed him an envelope after Harrison laid a brutal hit on Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in October 2010 (story via TMZ).

“And, I ain’t gonna lie to you, when that happened, right? [T]he G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that,” Harrison said. “I ain’t gonna say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”

The clear implication, of course, is that the alleged envelope contained money, either as a “reward” for the hit or to help Harrison pay the ensuing $75K fine from the league. One way or another, it could spell trouble for Tomlin if the league chooses to investigate (though since the alleged incident took place prior to sanctions being levied in the Saints’ Bountygate scandal, that may not happen).

Team president Art Rooney II, of course, denies the allegation (via Mike Florio of PFT), and so does Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise (via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). After the public tied Harrison’s comments to Bountygate, Harrison himself took to social media to deny that Tomlin gave him a “bounty,” but he notably did not deny that the envelope helped offset his fine. Most likely, this will all be forgotten in short order, but it will be interesting to see if the NFL does decide to launch some sort of investigation.

Now for more from the Steel City:

  • New Steelers tight end Eric Ebron has passed his physical, as Ebron himself announced (via Twitter). An ankle injury wiped out his 2019 season almost completely, but he still managed to land a two-year, $12MM pact with Pittsburgh, thanks in large part to his Pro Bowl performance in 2018. He will join fellow tight end Vance McDonald as a seam-stretching target and red zone threat for Ben Roethlisberger.
  • After a promising 2018 campaign, Steelers RB James Conner was limited by injuries in 2019, and he averaged a full five fewer runs per game last season than he did the year before. But Tomlin prefers having a bell-cow in his backfield, and he hopes Conner can return to that role in 2020. “James is a featured guy and proven runner when healthy,” Tomlin said (via Rutter). “We’re excited about him getting back to health and displaying that in 2020.” Conner is entering a contract year, so a return to form as the Steelers’ RB1 could also land him a nice payday.
  • The Steelers may be in the market for a nose tackle after losing Javon Hargrave to the Eagles in free agency, as Mark Kaboly of The Athletic writes. While pure nose tackles are going the way of the dodo, Hargrave was so valuable because of his ability to generate pass rush from the interior while also serving as a traditional NT against power-running teams, but those players are tough to find on the open market. If the club makes a move to add a veteran via free agency or trade, Kaboly believes it will not happen until after training camp. Until then, Daniel McCullers and seventh-round rookie Carlos Davis will attempt to fill the void left by Hargrave.

Former Steelers LB James Harrison Retires

Former Steelers great James Harrison is calling it a career. The linebacker, who most recently suited up for the Patriots, announced on Instagram that he is retiring from football. 

Of course, we’ve been down this road before with Harrison. The linebacker also “retired” in 2014, only to return months later and play for another four seasons. This time, his announcement comes with the hashtag “#2ndAndFinalRetirement.” Harrison cites his family as the primary reason for his retirement, stating that he has “missed way too much for way too long.”

Earlier this month, Harrison indicated that he would wait until after the draft to sign with a team. It’s possible that the veteran, who will turn 40 in May, didn’t find the kind of interest that he was expecting.

Harrison leaves the game after a remarkable 17-season career. After going undrafted in 2002, the undersized linebacker hooked on with the Steelers and spent the bulk of his first two seasons on and off their practice squad. In between stints with Pittsburgh, he also spent time with the Ravens and the Rhein Fire of the NFL Europe.

Over time, Harrison developed into a key player for the Steelers, but it was not until 2007 that he became a full-fledged starter. In that season, he earned his first of five Pro Bowl appearances. The veteran would go on to win two Super Bowls with the Steelers as the anchor of their defense and secure two First-Team All-Pro nods.

Harrison spent the vast majority of his career in black and yellow, but also suited up for the Bengals in 2013 and wrapped up his career with the Patriots in 2017 when he was surprisingly cut late in the season by Pittsburgh.

We here at PFR wish Harrison the best in retirement.

Latest On James Harrison

Linebacker James Harrison is waiting until after the draft to sign with a team, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Of course, that’s probably not by Harrison’s choice. At this stage of his career, he is no longer a top priority for clubs. 

Harrison’s top priority is finding a situation in which he can see significant time on the field, Fowler hears. That all but rules out a return to the Steelers, but the Patriots have been one of a handful of teams to inquire on him over the last month.

To the surprise of many in the football world, the Steelers released Harrison in December. He quickly hooked on with the Patriots and proved to be effective in his short stint with them in one regular season game and three playoff contests. Still, Harrison will turn 40 in May, which will limit his market.

Harrison left the Steelers as their all-time sack leader with 80.5 and earned defensive player of the year acclaim in 2008. That season ended with Pittsburgh’s sixth Super Bowl title, one Harrison helped cement with his 100-yard interception return in Super Bowl XLIII.

Patriots’ James Harrison In No Rush To Sign

James Harrison doesn’t appear to be in a rush to sign anywhere, barring an aggressive pitch from a team, according to Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald (on Twitter). He adds that the Patriots have expressed interest in a reunion, but it’s not clear to what degree.

Of course, Harrison may not have much of a choice in not landing an immediate contract. While Harrison was productive after being signed by the Patriots, there may not be a healthy market for a near-40-year-old edge defender with a recent history of locker room problems.

Harrison was released by the Steelers last December after his defensive role was greatly reduced. New England picked him up relatively quickly, and the veteran pass rusher went on to post two sacks with the Patriots during the regular season before performing well in the playoffs.

AFC Rumors: M. Peters, Harrison, Pryor

Now that the Chiefs have acquired David Amerson and are on the verge of adding Kendall Fuller — once the Alex Smith trade is finalized — Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders if Kansas City could trade Marcus Peters. Peters, whom the Chiefs selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, has quickly established himself as one of the better corners in the league, but as Florio notes, he has been a “handful” for Kansas City, and the incident that got Peters suspended for a game in December may have been the last straw for the team. Florio says “some in league circles” believe Peters could be on the trade block, and Alex Marvez of SiriusXM appears to think it’s a possibility as well (Twitter link).

Let’s take a look at more notes from around the AFC:

  • There is a “reasonable chance” that James Harrison returns to the Patriots in 2018, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk (citing Christopher Price of the Boston Sports Journal) writes. New England successfully deployed Harrison as a three-down player after acquiring him late last season, and as Harrison recently indicated he wants to play at least one more year, it may make sense for both parties to continue their relationship.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says it does appear as if well-respected offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia will be back with the Patriots in 2018, a prospect that was very much in doubt just a few weeks ago.
  • The Browns will pursue a reunion with free agent wideout Terrelle Pryor this offseason, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Cabot says Pryor never really wanted to leave Cleveland last year, but when the Browns signed Kenny Britt to the same contract they had on the table for Pryor, he didn’t have a choice.
  • The devastating injury to Ryan Shazier will not impact the way the Steelers approach their decision-making with respect to fifth-year options, as Florio writes.
  • Now that A.J. McCarron is set to leave the Bengals, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer wonders what his departure will mean for Cincinnati. He says Andy Dalton is not going anywhere — which was at least a remote possibility before Marvin Lewis decided to return — and he believes the Bengals could look to address other, more pressing needs in the early rounds of the 2018 draft and select a polished collegiate signal-caller in the middle rounds (just as they did with McCarron). Owczarski also suggests that Cincinnati could add a veteran on a one-year deal to back up Dalton.

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Gronk, Brady, Jets

The Patriots are optimistic tight end Rob Gronkowski will be fully recovered from his concussion in time to play in the Super Bowl, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). Indeed, New England is game-planning as though Gronkowski will be available against the Eagles. Gronk did not wear a red non-contact jersey during practice today (as he previously had), tweets Doug Kyed of NESN, another positive development as the Patriots prepare for Sunday. Meanwhile, quarterback Tom Brady wore only black tape on his injured right hand during Wednesday’s practice, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Brady’s hand injury didn’t seem to affect him in the AFC Championship Game, and likely won’t have an effect on his Super Bowl performance.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Pending free agent corner Malcolm Butler said he “without a doubt” wants to return to the Patriots in 2018, reports James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link). Butler, 27, had an up-and-down season on the field, and was repeatedly involved in trade rumors during the preseason and during the 2017 campaign. New England engaged in Butler trade conversations with the Saints throughout the summer, and were reportedly open to dealing the former Super Bowl hero near the trade deadline. While the two sides could theoretically reach an agreement before the start of free agency, negotiations were never expected to take place until the season concluded.
  • The Patriots signed linebacker James Harrison in late December after he was released by the Steelers, and the veteran edge rusher today offered more details about his departure from Pittsburgh, as Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Per Harrsison, the Steelers promised him 20-25% playtime, but he ended up seeing action on only 40 defensive plays, which amounts to roughly four percent. Fed up with his lack of a defined role, Harrison says he asked Pittsburgh three times to be traded before he was ultimately cut. The 39-year-old former Defensive Player of the Year has racked up two sacks in four games with New England.
  • The Jets worked out Canadian Football League star wideout Luke Tasker on Wednesday, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. Tasker, the son of former NFL Pro Bowler and current broadcaster Steve Tasker, set career-highs with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2017 by posting 104 receptions for 1,167 yards and seven touchdowns. He worked out for the Packers in 2014, but reportedly passed on a Green Bay offer to sign an extension with Hamilton.

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Jets, Pouncey

James Harrison fired back at the Steelers regarding his 2017 tactics, saying he repeatedly asked for a release this season. The Patriots linebacker said he asked for a release at the beginning of the season when it was clear his role was not what he thought it was going to be, but the team didn’t grant the request, he said on Instagram (via NESN’s Doug Kyed, on Twitter). The 39-year-old edge defender, who did have an extensive role in 2016, said the Steelers continued to tell him he would play only to deactivate him on Sundays or dress him and not deploy him. Harrison has played just 40 snaps across five games this season.

The new Patriots defender — who said he may not have “handled his frustration” well, seeming to confirm some of the accounts of ex-Steelers teammates — said he asked to be released (well, waived, since the trade deadline has passed) early last week before finally seeing the team do so. Harrison said Pittsburgh did not assure him he would be brought back, but the team also didn’t close the door on that possibility prior to his Patriots signing. He described the signing with New England as a “business decision.”

Here’s more from the AFC East.

  • Harrison said no other teams made offers to sign him, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald notes. Unsurprisingly, Harrison’s Patriots deal is for the prorated veteran minimum. He will earn $58K for his work this week plus playoff shares depending on how far New England advances, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The Steelers signed Harrison to a two-year contract in March and paid him $2.13MM this season.
  • The JetsTodd Bowles extension talks may have begun as recently as late December, with Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reporting Jets CEO Christopher Johnson opting to be proactive instead of letting Bowles enter a walk year and opening the door to other teams’ overtures. Specifically, Cimini writes that speculation about a Bowles/Cardinals reunion swirled for months. Bruce Arians will make a decision about his future in the offseason, but Bowles excelled as Arizona’s DC before coming to New York. Cimini also notes the Buccaneers, who are keeping Dirk Koetter for 2018, were a team the Jets knew would’ve been interested.
  • One of the reasons the Jets kept Bowles was the team’s surprisingly competitive season with several little-known players thrust to the forefront because of the offseason veteran purge. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link) Bowles doing more with less was not lost on ownership.
  • The Patriots‘ decision to unload Jimmy Garoppolo at the trade deadline hasn’t been fully embraced within the organization, with Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston reporting some felt the team should have pushed the situation as far as it could go — possibly into 2018. While trading Tom Brady was not a broached subject, Curran notes, his age and Garoppolo’s talent made some in Foxborough want to keep Garoppolo as an insurance policy. While that would have been a tricky process, given the $23MM franchise tag’s involvement, Garoppolo is likely going to be tagged after a breakout showing with the 49ers.
  • Mike Pouncey‘s severe hip injury — one that he’s said will induce a hip replacement at some point in the not-too-distant future — prompted one doctor say his career was over, the seventh-year center said (via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald). However, the Dolphins center made it through 15 games this season. Despite Pro Football Focus grading Pouncey as the league’s No. 25 center this season, Beasley notes the snapper is one of Adam Gase‘s favorites and can expect to be back in 2018.
  • PFF graded Jets guard Brian Winters as one of its worst offensive linemen this season, and the fifth-year player revealed why that might have been the case on Saturday. Winters said (via Twitter) he tore two midsection muscles in Week 2 and tried to play through the maladies the rest of the way. The recently extended lineman will undergo surgery. The Jets placed him on IR earlier this week.

Steelers Players Criticize Harrison’s Exit

Late last week the Steelers made the surprising decision to cut linebacker James Harrison. The veteran went unclaimed but was quickly signed by AFC rival New England. He then let it be known he was unhappy about his playing time and asked for his release several times. James Harrison (vertical)

His Steelers teammates hit back at Harrison on Wednesday, saying it was exactly what he wanted to happen and that he went out of his way to try to get released, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

“Don’t make it look like it’s the team’s fault,” Maurkice Pouncey said. “You think the team and the organization wanted to get rid of James Harrison? Come on, now. If I wanted out, I wouldn’t let the team take the blame for it.”

According to Fowler’s source, Harrison would sleep during position meetings and snore loudly while linebacker’s coach, and Harrison’s former teammate, Joey Porter tried to teach. Another source said Harrison told teammates he was trying to get traded and would leave the facility or stadium at random times or during games when he was inactive.

With the Patriots and Steelers possibly set to meet in the AFC playoffs, some wondered if Harrison would share information with his new team. Linebacker Bud Dupree doesn’t think he will, saying, “I don’t know how many secrets about the playbook Harrison could give to [the Patriots] because I never saw him in meetings.”

Pouncey went as far to say that Harrison, who starred in Super Bowl XLIII vs. the Cardinals, “erased his own legacy” with the departure.

Though surprising to Steelers fans, the move obviously was one that was welcomed and expected by many within the organization. To say there is bad blood here would be putting it lightly.

Patriots Sign LB James Harrison

James Harrison went unclaimed on waivers since being released by the Steelers a few days ago, but has since quickly found a new team. The veteran linebacker has signed with the Patriots, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The contract will only last through the remainder of this season, per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrtaed (Twitter link).

The team has also released linebacker Trevor Reilly to make room on the 53-man roster, reports Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter link).


Harrison, 39, has had an amazing career since latching on with the Steelers after going undrafted as a rookie. He was currently in his second stint with the team after a quick stop with the Bengals in 2013. However, the veteran saw his role with the Steelers diminish greatly this season, appearing in just five games in Pittsburgh.

While Harrison may not be the player he once was, he may be able to bring some leadership and ample postseason experience to a youthful New England defense team next month.

The Patriots could use some more depth at the linebacker position with likes of Elandon RobertsDavid HarrisMarquis Flowers getting much of the playing time. In addition, starter Kyle Van Noy was forced to sit out in Week 16 because of a calf injury.

The signing also adds further fuel to the rivalry between the Patriots and the Steelers as both groups look to be in strong position once again to meet in the AFC Championship for a second year in a row. Both teams earned first round byes with wins in Week 16.

Field Yates of ESPN.com had previously reported that Harrison was visiting the Patriots today. (Twitter link).


James Harrison Goes Unclaimed On Waivers

The Steelers made the relatively surprising decision to release longtime linebacker James Harrison a few days ago. Now we have learned that the 39-year-old went unclaimed on waivers and is free to sign with any team, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

James Harrison

Yates does point out that if both sides are willing, the Steelers and Harrison could work out another agreement so the veteran could play with the team in the postseason. However, that is certainly not a given because of how sparingly the veteran defender played in Pittsburgh.

Harrison only appeared in five games with the Steelers, as the team opted to go with more of a younger linebacker group in Ryan Shazier, T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and Vince Williams.

But with Shazier sadly out for the season as he deals with his devastating back injury, the defense could use Harrison’s leadership during postseason play.

It’s unusual to see players as old as Harrison find a role in today’s NFL. But he’s known for his incredible workout regimen and passion for football, which could be of great value for any team that’s looking for an extra spark on defense in the playoffs.