After the veteran linebackerby the Steelers on Dec. 23, Harrison became somewhat of a sympathetic figure because it appeared that the Steelers released him because they thought he was washed up. However, the way the Steelers tell it, that might not actually be the case.
During their open interview session on Wednesday, several Steelers players -- including Maurkice Pouncey and Bud DuPree -- insinuated that Harrison was released only because he forced his way out and basically left the team with no choice.
Bud Dupree is says he doesn’t want the media to turn James Harrison into “the victim” or portray that the Steelers “made him leave.”— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) December 27, 2017
“He chose to leave. He chose to leave, and he did.”
According to Pouncey, Harrison was actually hoping he would get released.
"He wanted that," Pouncey said, via CBS Sports Radio 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. "It wasn't like the team said 'We're going to let go of James Harrison.' James Harrison wanted that."
Based on Pouncey's version of events, the Steelers wanted to hang on to Harrison for a potential playoff run, but Harrison wanted no part of that plan.
"It's not like [the front office] got together and said 'We're going to go cut James,'" Pouncey said. "No, that's not what happened and he needs to come out and admit that. If you didn't want to be here, just come out and say it, don't make it look like it's the team's fault. You think the organization wants to get rid of James Harrison? Let's be serious. Come on, now."
Pouncey's explanation makes sense because Harrison definitely didn't hide that fact that he wasn't happy with his playing time. During an interview with NBC's Michele Tafoya in early December, Harrison said he would've never signed with the Steelers if he had known he was going to spend most of the season on the bench.
@jharrison9292 told me today if he had known he wasn’t going to play much (inactive for 6 games, DNP for two more), he would not have signed with the @steelers this season. Would he have played somewhere else? “Oh, yeah,” he said. “Who wants to NOT play?” @PFT_Live @SNFonNBC— Michele Tafoya (@Michele_Tafoya) December 8, 2017
"He erased himself. He erased his own legacy," Pouncey said, via PennLive.com.
Harrison's decision to ditch Pittsburgh and Patriots isn't sitting well with Steelers fans, who have . One thing that Pouncey isn't concerned about is the possibility that Harrison might share a few Steelers' team secrets with the Patriots.
"What's he gonna tell them? That the line slides left? That the line slides right? That's common sense," Pouncey said.
Of course, not everyone in the Steelers' locker room was as vocal as Pouncey about Harrison's departure. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a more mild take on the Patriots' newest signing when he was asked about it on Wednesday morning.
"James has to do what James has to do. It's not like he called and asked me if he should or not," Roethlisberger said, via ESPN.com. "James was out there -- he's a free agent, he has to do what's best for him and his family. I wish him the best. I've had a lot of good years with him."
All this bad blood could boil over if the Steelers and Patriots end up meeting in the playoffs. For that to happen, all they have to do is win one playoff game each. After this week's regular season finale, both teams will have wild-card weekend off before opening postseason play the weekend of Jan. 13 and 14.
If the two teams were to meet in the playoffs, it would come in the AFC title game on Jan. 21.