Dunlap: James Harrison’s Legacy Seems Shot In Pittsburgh

Colin Dunlap
February 08, 2018 - 1:46 pm
James Harrison

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Don’t look for James Harrison to be in attendance at any Steelers reunions.

That’s one of the big takeaways — for me at least — that came out of the wonderfully candid interview Steelers president Art Rooney II did with The Fan Morning Show on Thursday. Rooney was honest, he was direct and he didn’t shy away from anything. Good for him, as this is a time where Steelers fans are rife with disappointment.

Asked about Harrison’s legacy here in Pittsburgh, Rooney replied with the following:

“The end of players’ careers is sometimes not very pretty. Seeing Franco Harris in a Seahawks jersey was like one of our worst nightmares. So, things like this happen at the end of players’ careers and, well, we’ll probably let the dust settle.”

There was a tone, an inflection, a way in which Mr. Rooney was diplomatic yet firm that struck me. And don’t forget, no people can hold a grudge on this Earth like old-school Irishmen — trust me about that one. In this case, it felt like Mr. Rooney wanted to say a lot more, but took the high road so as not to embarrass Harrison, who might not have behaved like a model teammate in his final year with the organization before being shuttled out and then off to the Patriots. That falls in line with how the Steelers gracefully attempted to release Harrison, but he whined a bit and endeavored to victimize himself. That move backfired as it then came to light that Harrison slept in meetings and reportedly wasn’t exactly a wonderful mentor to younger players.

So now here we are, as no people in this world do nostalgia like Pittsburghers do nostalgia and many are wondering about the long-term legacy of Harrison. Will he do one of those one-day-contract, retire-as-a-Steeler jobs? I’m not so sure now.

Will he be back for those gathering at the Great Hall or on the field when all the old-timers (not named Bradshaw) come back? After hearing what I heard from Mr. Rooney, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Will he be welcomed back with open arms? It sure doesn’t seem as if that’s the case. After hearing Mr. Rooney’s response to the Harrison question, I really am firmly convinced the linebacker’s legacy is shot with the franchise.

What is also curious is the icy relationship the organization looks to have with former superstar Troy Polamalu. For someone who was such a fan favorite and indisputable cult hero among Steelers Nation, Polamalu — who retired in April 2015 — has been noticeably and conspicuously absent from just about all things Steelers. Other than the funeral for Dan Rooney, I can’t think of a time where Polamalu has been around (publicly, at least) anything involving his former team.

That isn’t at all placing fault on one side or the other with Polamalu — it is just an observation.

With Harrison, however, there is fault. And all the fault is with Harrison. He seems to have acted like a knucklehead at the end of his time in Pittsburgh and killed a legacy with the franchise he should have a great relationship with for the rest of his life.