“I should have another ring. We were the best team in football in 2004, but the Patriots, who we beat during the regular season, stole our signals and picked up 90 percent of our blitzes [in the AFC title game]. They got busted for it later, but hey, they’re Goodell’s boys, so he slapped ‘em $500,000 and burned the tapes. Was he going to rescind their Super Bowls? Man, hell no!”
-James Harrison in Men’s Journal
There’s part of you as a football fan that has to respect James Harrison. How he plays hard on every down. How his one-man mission is to dominate his competition and give his team every ounce of life he has on Sundays.
There is also a certain amount of respect given to anyone who is willing to take on “the man.” To stand up for what he believes, is in the spirit of his profession.
But what’s not respected is whining. What’s not respected is going back in time and excusing losses. What’s not respected is taking zero accountability.
Let’s set the record straight for Mr. Harrison, shall we? Yes, the New England Patriots cheated. It’s documented that they stole signals. No one should deny that. But for Harrison to blame his team’s loss in ’04 on that reason and that reason alone, is asinine.
Even in his own statement, Harrisoncontradicts himself. If the reason why you lost the AFC Title Game in 2004 was because the Patriots stole all of your signals, then how’d you beat them, as you mentioned, earlier in the year? Was it that your own coaching staff didn’t change the signals because they were naïve? Or was it just because the Patriots played better?
Harrison’s statement would lead you to believe that the only reason the Patriots beat the the Steelers in the playoffs of 2004 was because they had some dirty old tricks. They couldn’t lose toNew England if it was a fair fight. Right, Mr. Harrison?
If that’s the case, then let’s consider that the Patriots haven’t stolen signals since they were caught. Reasonable consideration since they haven’t been penalized for such activity since. Let’s also consider that the Steelers have had mostly better teams than the Patriots have had over the past six years, if we’re going by Super Bowl wins. Well, if you use Harrison’s logic, with those beliefs, then you’d think the Steelers would get the better of the Patriots in recent years, right?
Interestingly enough, when looking over the matchup since that fateful day in January of 2005, the facts don’t seem to back up Harrison’s theory:
September of 2005: Patriots 23 @ Steelers 20
December of 2007: Patriots 34 vs. Steelers 13
November of 2008: Patriots 10 vs. Steelers 33
November of 2010: Patriots 39 @ Steelers 26
The Patriots have beaten the Steelers three of the last four contests, with two of those three wins coming IN Pittsburgh. The average margin of victory in those three wins was a shade over 12 points. Finally, the only time the Steelers have beaten the Patriots since losing the AFC Title Game in 2004, was when MVP Quarterback Tom Brady was out with a blown knee.
Wouldn’t those numbers above lead you to believe that it’s a match-up issue forPittsburgh? Isn’t it a fair deduction that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (6-1 vs.Pittsburghin their “tag team” career) have simply had consistent success versus Dick LeBeau’s defense? A defensive coordinator who is a coaching legend, but also rarely changes his attack.
There is little argument that the Steelers have been among the NFL’s elite in recent years. For that,Harrisonand his teammates deserve credit. But, when speaking of the Patriots, maybeHarrisonneeds to stop worrying about the past, because he hasn’t had much luck against them in the present, either.
Follow Nick Cattles on Twitter: @NickCattles