By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — On Wednesday, several of James Harrison’s former Steelers teammates ripped the linebacker for asking to be released by the team. That group included center Maurkice Pouncey, who said Harrison was not being honest in letting the team take the blame for his release.
Seeking to tell his side of the story, Harrison spoke to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and said that the Steelers simply never gave him the playing time that they promised this season.
“After the first week of the season, I said to them, it’s clear you want to play your younger guys and I understand, so why don’t you release me. You go on your way and I’ll go on mine,” Harrison told Dulac. “They said, ‘No, no, no, we got a role for you.'”
That role never crystallized. Harrison spent most of the season either inactive or standing on the sideline, getting on the field for just 40 snaps all season long.
According to Harrison, the Steelers told him that he’d play a pivotal role in Pittsburgh’s game against the Patriots. But he ended up playing zero snaps.
After not requesting a release for several weeks, that was the last straw for Harrison.
“If I didn’t play in the biggest game of the year, that told me I wouldn’t get any more snaps,” Harrison said. “So all that lip service you gave me before didn’t matter.”
According to Harrison, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told the player that the team might re-sign him for the playoffs if the team suffered an injury. Instead, coincidentally enough, it was the Patriots swooped in and signed Harrison after he cleared waivers.
“I can’t sit there on ‘ifs,’ and I’m not playing. I wasn’t upset, I’m not mad, it’s a business,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I have to make a business decision.”
Harrison told Dulac that the Patriots’ staff has told him he will play on Sunday in the Patriots’ Week 17 home game against the New York Jets.