Steelers players rip James Harrison for forcing his way off the team with odd behavior including snoring during team meetings

  • Several Pittsburgh Steelers players said veteran linebacker James Harrison forced the team to cut him last week.
  • Harrison would reportedly sleep during team meetings and would often skip practices or leave games early if he was inactive.
  • Several players said Harrison should make it clear that he wanted out, not the other way around.

Several Pittsburgh Steelers took exception with former linebacker James Harrison's actions before and after his release from the team.

Harrison, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, was cut by the team on Saturday and then signed with the New England Patriots. He later told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac that he was unhappy with his playing time from the start of the season and asked to be released, only to be rebuked.

"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," Harrison said. "You go on your way and I'll go on mine. They said, 'No, no, no, we got a role for you.'"

Harrison also said after not playing against the New England Patriots in Week 15 that it was clear he did not have a role on the team.

However, several Steelers players spoke out against Harrison this week, taking issue with how he framed his release.

Steelers James Harrison
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Steelers James Harrison
Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) walks off the field with Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin after beating the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison breathes through an oxygen mask after intercepting a pass and scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals at the end of the second quarter of the NFL's Super Bowl XLIII football game in Tampa, Florida, February 1, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES)
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison lays on the ground after scoring a touchdown after intercepting a pass against the Arizona Cardinals at the end of the second quarter during the NFL's Super Bowl XLIII football game in Tampa, Florida, February 1, 2009. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 15: James Harrison #92 (left) of the Pittsburgh Steelers and outside linebacker coach Joey Porter before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on November 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 21: Linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sideline during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field on December 21, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Chiefs 20-12. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 09: Linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers follows the action against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on November 9, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 2: NBC Sports Sunday Night Football sideline reporter Michele Tafoya interviews linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after a game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on November 2, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Ravens 43-23. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 12, 2014: Linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks down the sideline during a game against the Cleveland Browns on October 12, 2014 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won 31-10. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 28: Linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the field before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field on September 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Buccaneers defeated the Steelers 27-24. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 29: Linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field on August 29, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 20: Linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sideline during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on November 20, 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Bengals 27-10. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, Harrison's behavior forced the Steelers' hand. Harrison would reportedly sleep in a reclining chair during positional meetings and snore loudly. Other times, Harrison would leave stadiums during games he was inactive and skip practices with injuries only to then work out by himself later on.

Center Maurkice Pouncey had perhaps the strongest reaction, saying Harrison "erased" his legacy with the Steelers by signing with the Patriots. He also said Harrison should admit that he wanted to leave the Steelers, not the other way around.

"If you didn't wanna be here, just come out and say it. Don't make it look like it's the team's fault and the organization," Pouncey said. "You think the team wanted to get rid of James Harrison? Let's be serious."

Linebacker Bud Dupree said: "I don't want the media to portray that we're the reason he left. That ain't the reason. He chose to leave. He made certain decisions, and his actions got him to this circumstance."

Dupree also said on his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan that Harrison wouldn't be able to tell the Patriots about the Steelers' playbook.

"I didn't see him in meetings, so I don't know if he knows the plays or not," Dupree said.

The Steelers-Patriots Week 15 showdown lived up the hype that came with a meeting between the AFC's two best teams. If they should meet in the postseason, the rematch between Harrison and the Steelers will only make the game more compelling.

NFL coaches who could be fired during 2017 season
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NFL coaches who could be fired during 2017 season

Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

Season record: 5-6

Career record with team: 46-28-1

The 65-year-old Arians has denied rumors that he’ll retire at the end of this season. But Arians, who is only signed through 2018, might not have a say as to whether he’ll coach Arizona through the end of his contract.

The Cardinals have fallen sharply since reaching the NFC Championship after the 2015 campaign. Carson Palmer looked like a shell of himself before getting injured (again) and Arizona’s rushing attack is the worst in the NFL, having failed to replace the injured David Johnson.

But Arians, who became the winningest coach in Cardinals history last week -- with Blaine Gabbert throwing passes to the Jaguars’ stout defense, no less -- has earned a good amount of leeway in the organization.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins

Season record: 4-7

Career record with team: 14-12

Gase guided Miami to a surprise playoff appearance last year, but the team has floundered following the loss of quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a torn ACL during the preseason. Luring Jay Cutler out of retirement to fill in has gone about as well as chortling Bears fans expected.

The team’s 4-7 record doesn’t tell the full story here, as the Dolphins possess the league’s second-worst point differential (-115). If Miami’s current five-game losing streak extends to the end of the season, the powers that be could very well opt to move on from Gase. Then again, this is the team that gave Joe Philbin (career record: 24-28) more than three seasons at the helm.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Todd Bowles, New York Jets

Season record: 4-7

Career record with team: 19-23

Many predicted the Jets would finish near the bottom of the league in 2017, but they’ve actually managed to exceed expectations. Their -29 point differential is tied for 19th in the NFL.

But if New York limps to the finish line, it wouldn’t be totally surprising if the Jets cut ties with Bowles, who was fiercely criticized after the Jets went 5-11 last season.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos

Season record: 3-8

Career record with team: 3-8

It’d be out of character for Broncos GM John Elway to fire a coach after one season, but it’s been an absolute mess in Denver this season.

The team is 0-7 since their Week 5 bye, and that losing streak includes some truly embarrassing defeats. Which is worst -- a 23-10 setback to the previously winless Giants at home, a 51-23 blowout against the Eagles that was even more of a blowout than the score indicates, or a 41-16 beatdown from the Patriots in Denver?

The once intimidating defense has sagged to allow 25.5 points per game, which ranks 26th in the NFL. The quarterback situation got so bad, the Broncos extended an olive branch to Brock Osweiler and let him start a few games. Joseph only had one year of experience at the coordinator level prior to this season, a one-year stint as the Dolphins' defensive boss. He might be in over his head here.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns

Season record: 0-11

Career record with team: 1-26

Jackson was always going to be given a long leash as the Browns committed to yet another rebuild when they hired him before the 2016 season. But he’s really testing the patience of Cleveland’s brain trust.

The Browns have the worst point differential in the NFL, ranking last in points scored (15.1 PPG) and second to last in points allowed (26.3 PPG). The biggest problem is they haven’t been able to develop any of their quarterbacks, even to a level of mere adequacy -- rookie DeShone Kizer and second-year players Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler have thrown a combined nine touchdowns and 20 interceptions this year.

It’s not like the team’s front office was expecting to compete for the playoffs this season, but it’d be hard to imagine Jackson surviving a winless campaign. If that nightmare scenario comes to fruition, Jackson would have the worst winning percentage among coaches in the Super Bowl era with at least 48 games under their belt.

(Photo via Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

Season record: 5-6

Career record with team: 123-111-3

Will the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL finally see his time in Cincinnati come to an end after this season, his 15th with the organization?

The Bengals rank last in the NFL in yards gained (274.3 YPG) and seem destined to miss the postseason with several tough games still remaining on their schedule. If they do, it’d be the first time since 2006-08 they’ve failed to qualify for the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Season record: 4-7

Career record with team: 13-14

The Buccaneers were a trendy playoff pick during the preseason. However, an underachieving defense (last in the NFL with 395.5 yards allowed per game) and quarterback (Jameis Winston threw just 10 touchdowns in 8 games before injuring his shoulder) have left Tampa Bay at the bottom of the NFC South.

Koetter was promoted to head coach two years ago after serving as offensive coordinator for predecessor Lovie Smith in 2015 to provide Winston with some continuity. But Winston’s regression in his third NFL season doesn’t speak well to Koetter’s credentials.

(Photo via Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

Season record: 3-8

Career record with team: 52-39

Pagano won the war with former Colts GM Ryan Grigson, whom he battled with for years and was fired by team owner Jim Irsay in January. But Pagano might follow him out the door soon.

Indianapolis’ defense has been the worst in the league by points allowed (27.3 PPG) – not a good look for a team led by a former defensive coordinator -- and the offense is 27th (17.7 PPG) by the same measure.

The Colts have always looked pretty hapless without a healthy Andrew Luck, but at least managed .500 records the last two years. Now, the bottom has fallen out, and Pagano might pay the price for it.

(Photo via Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

John Fox, Chicago Bears

Season record: 3-8

Career record with team: 12-31

The Bears are doomed to their third consecutive last-place finish in the AFC North under Fox. Even though the blame can’t be completely laid at his feet -- any coach would have trouble winning with the amount of talent on Chicago’s offense -- the team has a bit of a hopeless aura around it right now.

That shouldn’t be the case with a No. 2 overall draft pick in Mitchell Trubisky under center, but the rookie hasn’t looked like a top-shelf prospect. Chicago might opt to hire a more offensive-minded coach to help groom Trubisky in the next stage of his career.

The team's remaining home games against easy opponents in San Francisco and Cleveland feel like must-wins, and even victories in those matchups might not be enough to save Fox.

(Photo via Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ben McAdoo, New York Giants

Season record: 2-9

Career record with team: 13-14

McAdoo did just about the only thing that could fire up New York’s fan base during a long-lost season -- bench two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning. Most Giants fans have a love/hate relationship with Manning, but they were all up in arms after McAdoo cast aside Manning for Geno Smith, of all quarterbacks, this week.

That decision only grew the chorus of voices calling for McAdoo's head, which has been present since the team's 0-5 start. The team now plans to split time at quarterback between Smith -- who already ran out of chances with one New York team -- and 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb. At this point, it seems McAdoo will only be retained if Smith or the rookie out of California provides a sustained spark for the offense, which would be shocking given the unit’s total ineptness this season.  

(Photo by Dustin Bradford via Getty Images)


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