James Harrison is the Steelers’ all-time sack leader, and one of the greatest players on a franchise whose history is stuffed with great players. He’s now likely to finish his career as a member of the one team the Steelers can’t seem to beat.
Harrison was still an impact player for the Steelers as recently as last year’s playoffs, but he’s 39 and he played just 40 snaps across five games this year. Earlier this month, Harrison publicly admitted he wouldn’t have re-signed with Pittsburgh this offseason had he known his role was going to be so small. The Steelers released him on Saturday. In New England, Harrison can provide depth for a front seven that’s been dealing with a rash of injuries.
Harrison and the Steelers have parted ways before—he was released in 2013, only to sign with the Bengals, only to get released the following spring, only to sign a one-day contract in September 2014 so he could retire as a Steeler, only to re-join the active roster less than three weeks later. This likely was a straight-up business transaction all around, but it’s still tempting to think some amount of fuck-you went into Harrison’s decision to wind up in Foxboro.
After Harrison’s release the other day, his agent told ESPN there were no hard feelings. But Harrison sure was quick to share that selfie up there he took with Tom Brady. Harrison might see this as a chance to stick it to the franchise he feels stuck it to him after so many years of dutiful service—strictly business, with the added bonus of a legit shot at another Super Bowl ring, perhaps even at the Steelers’ expense. For Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, it might be another opportunity to gather intelligence from an erstwhile opponent in advance of a possible postseason matchup. The Patriots have owned the Steelers for years. Now they just gave them something else to think about.