James Harrison Offers Mea Culpa Via Facebook

Credit James Harrison with another talent.

When he sticks his foot deep into his mouth, he at least is smart enough to attempt to extract it.

Courtesy of John Stephens from Behind the Steel Curtain, I am here posting Silverback’s response to the earthshaking rant which will appear in Men’s Journal on Friday of this week. (Note Stephens has reposted Harrison’ statement on Facebook.)

First, Harrison addressed his comments directed towards his teammates:

I’ll start by offering my apologies for some of the words that I said during the four days in May that Men’s Journal was invited to my house to discuss what the NFL has recently been portraying as their attempts at ‘player safety’ rules and regulations, and to cover my everyday workout routine.

I did make comments about my teammates when I was talking about the emotional Super Bowl loss, but the handful of words that were used and heavily publicized yesterday were pulled out of a long conversation and the context was lost. Obviously, I would never say that it was all Ben’s or Rashard’s fault that we lost the Super Bowl. That would be ridiculous. Both Ben and Rashard are great players and great teammates. Clearly the entire team bears responsibility for the loss, me included. It was a team effort and a team loss. My teammates know me well, and hopefully understand the things I said were not meant to accuse them of the loss. We all have discussed several things that went wrong in the Super Bowl since that day. What I do apologize for and take full responsibility for is for speaking in such a candid manner to someone outside the team.

After duly apologizing to his teammates, Harrison address his other comments:

I also need to make clear that the comment about Roger Goodell was not intended to be derogatory against gay people in any way. It was careless use of a slang word and I apologize to all who were offended by the remark. I am not a homophobic bigot, and I would never advocate intolerance of gay people.

As far as the photo that was shown on air yesterday, collecting guns is a hobby of mine, and I advocate the responsible use of firearms. I believe in the right to bear arms. I like to go to the shooting range. I like to hunt. I like to fish. I could just as easily have posed with my fishing poles but it obviously wouldn’t be an interesting picture for the magazine. I am not promoting gun violence by posing for that photo. There are also other photos in the magazine story that were not shown on air yesterday – including me with my sons, with my mom and as a kid.

Unfortunately, the above items and other comments have detracted from the original purpose of the story – a position I have been advocating for some time now. If player safety is the NFL’s main concern, as they say it is, they are not going about it in an effective manner. There’s nothing about extending the season or issuing exorbitant fines on defensive players that makes any shift toward the prevention of injury to players.

I believe that the league may have been feeling increasing pressure about injuries and concussions last year, and that they panicked and put rules in place that weren’t fully thought out. I’m not advocating more flags and fines, I’m just saying that the current rules are not completely fair, and I don’t believe in the way that the league is handling their position as overseer of the NFL and the well-being of its players.

As far as the character and reputation hits I may suffer as a result of my comments in the article, I’ll take those hits and more if it brings increased attention to the re-examination and installation of rules and regulations that would create a REAL impact on player safety.

Analysis

A lot was said about Harrison’s incendiary comments. Yours truly compared James Harrison to Greg Lloyd, who, his status as a personal favorite aside, may have done his share to divide the locker room.

Gerry Dulac wrote extensively on PG Plus, roundly taking Harrison to task and suggested that punishment was in order.

The best article I read was one on ESPN by Ashley Fox, who rightly said that Harrison above all made himself look like an idiot.

Now Harrison is attempting to make it right.

Don’t Be Too Quick to Discount His Excuse

His first line of defense was time-honored “they took my words out of context.”

Athletes always opt for this route. Just just because it seems like the easy out, does not mean we should discount the excuse, and those with person experience with the press might understand why.

Back in 1991 I testified in front of the Montgomery County Council. It was a sparsely attended event, so much that the council member (and future council president and county executive) chairing it feel asleep.

To my great surprise a week or so later someone called me to about the article that the Montgomery Gazette hard written on my testimony. There was one problem. The reporter never bothered to interview me and a good deal of my testimony was taken out of context.

On a larger scale in 1996 I volunteered for a year at People Working Cooperatively in Cincinnati, Ohio (a phenomenal organization serving a great city, Bengals not withstanding). A few months prior to my service there the agency had been the subject of a municipal investigation.

The Cincinnati press descended on PWC’s headquarters and interviewed its leaders. I was told by people whom I know an trust that while on site the reporters made ever effort to take a sympathetic tone, only to savage the agency once they got back to the studio.

I’ve known others who’ve brushed with the press and had similar experiences.

If you think about it, it is easy to imagine Harrison making comments about Rashard Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger in a light hearted or even off hand way, perhaps even with a playful tone. Of course all of that would get lost the instant they went into print.

Harrison’s comments about Goodell are another matter. From 6000 miles away those still “sound” as if they’re from the heart.

Silverback Should have Known Better

The bottom line is that Harrison should have known better. He is not a rookie and has been in the spotlight enough to know that something like this would happen.

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James Harrison Follows in Greg Lloyd’s Footsteps

James Harrison has always reminded me of one of my all time favorite Steelers, Greg Lloyd. After all, both men:

  • Excel at outside linebacker
  • Hail from unheralded college programs
  • Terrorize opposing quarterbacks
  • Unleash havoc with reckless abandon
  • Impose their will
  • Alter the course of games when victory and defeat hang in the balance

Harrison, for good or for ill, is now following in Lloyd’s footsteps with his mouth.

Never shy about sharing his feelings, Lloyd once called Joe Namath out when Broadway Joe criticized his aggressive play, and number 95 rightly criticized NFL management for fining him for hits that they later packaged and sold as highlight VHS tapes.

The NFL’s selective prosecution of James Harrison during the 2010 campaign was well document both on Steel Curtain Rising and in parts elsewhere.

Harrison didn’t back down then, and is not relenting now, having done an interview with Men’s Journal where he called Rodger Goodell “the devil” and going so far as to say:

If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it. I hate him and will never respect him.

Strong words. Steel Curtain Rising has been stout in its defense of James Harrison, regularly decrying the league’s semi-official policy of allowing offensive lineman to hold, closeline, and horse collar him with nary a flag.

And if one easily understands that no love will should be lost between Goodell and Harrison, it remains equally effortless to understand that the ultimate impact of Harrison’s tirade will likely only serve to intensify his status as the league’s poster boy against aggressive play.

The real danger in Harrison’s rant lies elsewhere.

Harrison Hits Too Close to Home

In a forthcoming Men’s Journal magazine article, Harrison also offered some choice words for his teammates.

While praising Troy Polamalu, Harrison labeled Rashard Mendenhall as a “fumble machine,” and then had this to say about his starting quarterback:

Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain’t that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does.

Harrison’s criticism of Ben Roethlisberger is particularly unnevering. Locker room unity and team harmony have been hallmarks of the Steelers success during the entire last decade.

Could signal the end?

Echos of O’Donnell and Lloyd?

Reading Harrison’s comments about Roethlisberger immediately reminded me of Greg Lloyd and Neil O’Donnell.

After a hard-fought victory against the Chicago Bears in 1995 Lloyd saluted O’Donnell with a very public side-line hug. Afterwards he explained to reporters that quarterbacks, O’Donnell included, were the enemy, and that his hug signaled a truce in light of his quarterback’s superb play that day.

That season’s ended with Steelers dropping Super Bowl XXX and Neil O’Donnell bolting because he felt Rich Kotite and New York Jet’s offered him a better chance to get back to the Super Bowl. I remember reading an article by someone in Pittsburgh, I want to say it was John Steigerwald talking about the relationship between O’Donnell and Lloyd.

Steigerwald, if he was the author, explained that the Lloyd-O’Donnell hug marked the high point in their relationship, and that the divisions between Lloyd and his cadre and the rest of the team had hurt the team in 1995. (Jim O’Brien raised similar observations about Lloyd in his book Dare to Dream.)

While tension between Lloyd and O’Donnell remained largely behind the scenes, (ah, the heaven of the days prior to social media), Harrison has very publicly called out his quarterback.

Roethlisberger and Harrison have apparently talked, according to Merril Hoge, and all is well. That’s what you want to hear in public.

What is said, or felt, in private remains a different matter.

A few weeks back in a make-news article, ESPN’s James Walker praised Mike Tomlin as being the AFC North’s best “massager of egos.” Walker’s arguments were strong. Now it looks as if they’ll be put to the test.

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Hines Ward Arrested for DUI

Sometimes Art Rooney II simply must want to shake his head.

Another off season, and another Steelers player in legal trouble — in Georgia no less.

Both WTAE and PG Plus are both reporting that Steelers stand out wide reciever and Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward was arrested this morning on DUI charges.

Hines Ward’s agent issued the following statement:

On July 9, Hines Ward was stopped by DeKalb County police for suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence. He cooperated fully with the police and truthfully answered all of their questions.

We are currently in the process of ascertaining all the facts. From our preliminary investigation, we can tell you that we are confident that the facts will show that Hines was not impaired by alcohol while driving. However, Hines is deeply saddened by this incident and apologizes to his fans and the Steelers organization for this distraction.

That is a pretty strong statement and it is important to note that the charge was DUI and not DWI, the former not even being a felony.

Still, given Roger Goodell’s uneven application of the league’s good conduct policy, one already must entertain the idea Hines Ward could be facing some kind of suspension.

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Steelers to Face Salary Cap Trouble in New CBA?

This is a little premature to discuss, as the new CBA has yet to be reached and anything, including continuation of the lockout, could happen.

But ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting that the salary cap will likely decline in any new CBA, and he’s listing the Steelers as one of the 7 teams that would be most aversely affected.

Accordingly to Claton, the Steelers are 10 million dollars over the prospective cap. On the surface of things, this does not bode well for the team.

Clayton, for examples, explains that the Steelers could cut half of that gap by parting ways with Flozell Adams.

The conventional wisdom is that the Steelers cannot resign Willie Colon, which means that losing Adams would rob the Steelers of both quantity and quality of depth at offensive tackle.

Likewise, the Steelers need to resign Ike Taylor, and their ability to do so would be compromised by how much they can restructure existing deals and create enough space to ink Taylor.

Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney II have been quite adept at managing the salary cap, and there is no reason to expect this to change.

But given the compressed free agency time frame and a reduced salary cap is going to require some fancy footwork on the part of both men to ensure the Steelers keep Taylor and Adams or Colon in the Black and Gold in 2011.

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Super Bowl XLVI: Steelers Fate?

Superstitions. They’re part of life, part of sports. Sometimes they can be direct. A favorite one of mine is: “Read Bob Labriola’s column in the Steelers Digest the Saturday before the game, and the Steelers win. Wait till Sunday and they lose.”

Then there are the indirect ones.

I plead guilty to the later count too.

Back in the late 80’s I once wasted the requisite oxygen to annunciate that Bubby Brister was destined to be a star quarterback because “Like Terry Bradshaw, his last name ended in a ‘B.’ Like Terry Bradshaw he’s from Louisiana and played college ball at in Louisiana. And Terry’s number had been 12, the younger Cajun was 6….”

Or something like that.

I guess part of that was right. One could charitably argue that Brister was indeed half the quarterback that Bradshaw was…

Although the rational, Masters degree educated, side of me screams against paying heed to superstition, you’d better believe that I read Labrolia’s column on Saturday.

The ones that are more grounded in coincidence or happenstance mainly serve for amusement, but I’ve gotta tell you, today I am recommending a good one.

Steelers Destined for Super Bowl XLVI?

The stars are aligned for the Steelers to take Super Bowl XLVI.

Forget about the verbiage about how “A veteran team is posed to take care of business in wake of the lock out.”

No, my man Tony Defeo from Behind the Steel Curtain offers a far more compelling string of circumstances.

When I first saw the headline to his article, I was ready to fire off a missive chiding him for jinxing us. (Yeah, you know kind of reprimand you level at the wise guy in your group of Steelers buddies who open worries about “what color jerseys will we wear in the Super Bowl?” in the week leading up to the AFC Championship.)

But jinx be dammed , this is one article that is worth the read. (God, if only La Toalla Terrible had thought of this!)

Regular Steel Curtain Rising readers know that go at great pains to avoid stealing another writer’s thunder, and I will do so again here. But do take time out to read Defeo’s article, because it’s a hoot!

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Roethlisberger’s Foot Injury More Serious than Reported, Surgery Was a Possibility

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s broken foot was so bad that late last season there were times when he did not think he’d be able to walk, and he even considered surgery as an option.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Scott Brown, Roethlisberger dropped another bomb:

If it continues to be as painful as it was at the end of last year, then I’m going to probably have to have the surgery.

In the locker room Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is known as somewhat of a drama queen when it comes to injuries. So perhaps the latest Roethlisberger revelation should be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, the prospect of losing Ben to a mid-season foot operation is not encouraging.

Perhaps, however, the lockout has provided one positive spin off benefit – it has given Roethlisberger time to heal.

It’s doing really good. [sic] It’s healed up. Obviously, it helps when I’m not cutting and planting and doing all of these different activities. It’s really come a long way.

Tribute to the Tribune Review

While a certain unnamed Tribune Review columnist has been a frequent focus of the Watch Tower, kudos go out to Scott Brown for getting this information on the record.

Roethlisberger’s been available to the media because of a youth football camp he is sponsoring, and the Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo took advantage and wrote a story about the Steelers “stealth” off season workouts. Yet, Fittipaldo got no information in the injury. ESPN did a newswire story which referenced the Tribune Review’s.

This is not the first time Scott Brown has out-hustled his rivals at the larger Post-Gazette, nor is it likely to be the last.

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Mike Tomlin: Class Act

The expressions “Mike Tomlin” and “Class Act” have collocated since the day he took the helm at the South Side.

Tomlin calls it as he sees it, pull no punches, and makes no excuses.

That spirit was on display during Super Bowl XLV when he pointedly refused to chalk Pittsburgh’s defeat up to the Steelers own failings, opting instead to give all the credit to Green Bay. Class Act all the way.

Tomlin is again proving it this off season.

He’s hosting a football camp for youth.

NFL personalities holding football camps for youth is nothing new. But Tomlin’s comes with a twist.

There is no charge and it is directed at kids who otherwise might not be able to attend.

Tomlin explains to the Post Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo that when he was a child, he could never afford such camps. Tomlin is changing that this summer for 225 youths who in shoes where he once stood.

My parents could, and did, send me to camps when I was growing up whenever I wanted to go. I had those opportunities. Lot’s of other kids didn’t and still don’t.

Mike Tomin his doing his part to change that, and Steel Curtain Rising salutes him for it.

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Harrison Blasts Owners; Litna Offers to Mediate

The NFL is stepping up its war against the Steelers defense, er um, hard hits, by further clarifying and clamping down on helmet-to-helmet hits, expanding the definition of defenseless players, and expanding the players covered under defenseless concept.

Harrison Reacts Harshly

Steelers stand out outside linebacker James Harrison wasted no time and minced on words, offering on Twitter:

I’m absolutely sure now after this last rule change that the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots.

Harrison’s frustration is more than understandable.

For the past several years the a good portion of the NFL’s officials have implicitly (or explicitly) turned a blind eye as offensive lineman have routinely held, horse collared, and often wrestled James Harrison to the ground with nary a flag thrown.

In 2010, James Harrison found himself as the focal point of the leagues new “no hard hits policy” as he was routinely fined and penalized for hits on quarterbacks.
Harrison’s fines also equaled or exceeded those levied on players who commited far worse offenses, such as attempting to cold cock Ben Roethlisberger with a sucker punch in between plays.

Balance Anyone?

While Steel Curtain Rising obviously supports James Harrison, I also recognize the need to protect against head trauma.

The NFL is indeed wise to take this issue very seriously, lest the sport’s popularity plummet the way boxing’s has since the late 1970’s.

But where’s the balance?

Ever since the imposition of the Mel Blount rule the NFL has done more and more to promote the passing game.

Defensive coordinators have reacted by ratcheting up the pressure in the backfield, and hitting hard in the secondary.

Rules changes like these would be easier to support if the league were to say, modify the pass interference rules. No one is talking about repealing the Mel Blount rule, but too often defenders get flagged for even the most minor occasions of incidental contact.

This was not always the case, and if the NFL is going make even difficult for defenders to use force to limit the offense’s ability to move the ball, why not also make corresponding rules changes that enhance the defense’s ability to stop offense using technique?

Litna Offers to Mediate

Joe Litna, a Pittsburgh native and long time NFL agent, made an interesting offer, as reported by Ed Bouchette in PG Plus.

In essence, Litna, who by representing 45-50 NFL players, is asking to see a copy of the latest offer from the NFL owners so that he can present it to his players.

He further clarified that he thinks there’s a good chance his players would be ready to accept it.

Finally, Litna offered to help mediate the dispute.

The idea of accepting mediation from an agent might seem like allowing the fox to guard the chickens, given that agent-driven bonus increases are a big part of the problem.

But Litna has always seemed reasonable. After re-negotiating Jim Miller’s contract prior to the start of the 1996 season, Litna reportedly told his client, “You don’t deserve a contract like this. Now go out and earn it.”

If nothing else, Litna’s comments perhaps provide a clue that the NFL rank and file are getting frustrated with the stalemate that the lockout is locked in (pun intended.)

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Aaron Smith Still Not Fully Recovered?

Steelers Nation got some good news Friday when Gerry Dulac reported on PG Plus that Troy Poalamlu’s recovery from a slight Achilles tendon tear is healing well. Dulac further reported that Polamalu is under the care of an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles.

If Dulac is right about Polamalu, everyone in Steelers Nation can say a prayer of thanks, because number 43 is one of the true game-changing players in the league today.

The news on Aaron Smith is less welcome.

Aaron Smith of course tore a triceps in early October. The Steelers however did not put Smith on IR, opting to give him a chance to make a come back before year’s end, a decision which ultimately forced them to cut Thaddus Gibson, whom they’d picked in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft.

While Dulac reports that “Smith has suffered no set backs” he also indicates that “it is still unclear at this point if he will be 100 percent recovered in time for training camp” (assuming there is a training camp….)

Should Have Put Aaron Smith on IR

I am not medical expert, but this new information really calls Tomlin’s decision not to put Smith on IR into question.

Let’s be clear:

  • The outcome of Super Bowl XLV would not have been different had Thaddus Gibson been on the roster.

According to Pro Football Reference, Thaddus Gibson got into two games in San Francisco, and the site did not track any tackles or other stats for the player. If Gibson is to be this generations Dwayne Board, as Ed Bouchette never tires of suggesting each time the Steelers cut a young defender, he’s given zero indication of that thus far.

But in hind sight the decision to keep Smith active did perhaps limit roster flexibility in other areas.

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Troy Polamalu Graduates from USC

Troy Polamalu, the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Year, is grabbing headlines again, in spite of the NFL lockout.

That’s to be expected, because this time it is not with his body, but with his brain as the Steelers 2010 MVP walked the stage at USC’s commencement ceremony.
Steel Curtain Rising salutes Polamalu’s decision to go back and finish his education. He should be set for life and seems sensible enough to manage his money smartly so that that happens.
But athletic ability fades or, as we have seen with out beloved 43, can be robbed by injury.
Education is one of the few things that can never be taken away. Polamalu knows that and has finished his degree.
Polamalu Student of the Year Contest
Troy is not stopping with himself, he is sponsoring a student of the year contest, one open to students at the elementary, junior high/high school and college level.
I don’t know any students well enough to nominate them and, truth be told, few Argentine student would know who Troy Polamalu is.
But if you’re involved closely enough with education then I encourage you to nominate that special student who has crossed your path.
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