What a week it’s been for the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Not for good reasons though. Hines Ward’s DUI arrest in his native Georgia last weekend was the first piece of unfortunate news, though that was quickly forgotten about Wednesday after Men’s Journal published excerpts of an interview with James Harrison. The 2008 Defensive Player of the Year went on such a tirade against commissioner Roger Goodell that most folks didn’t take too much umbrage with outside of Harrison calling Goodell a homophobic slur. It was Harrison’s comments about Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall — and how their costly miscues in SB XLV cost the Steelers a title — that fans and the media jumped all over.
I’m inclined to believe that this won’t be much of an issue for the team once they finally reconvene and begin their 2011 season together in earnest. And I agree that Mike Tomlin is the right man to squelch this fire before it burns out of control inside the team’s locker room. Teammates don’t need to universally love each other, they just need to play hard for one another really. And I don’t think there’s too many scenarios in which each of the 53 men who make the Steelers roster in 2011 will be playing at anything less than maximum effort.
One of Harrison’s teammates, Lawrence Timmons, was quick to come to Harrison’s defense. Speaking with TSN in Toronto not long after the Men’s Journal article broke, Timmons spoke of the close relationship he has with Harrison and how Deebo as his teammates call him (in reference to the bully in the movie Friday) is often misunderstood. Here’s a few excerpts from the interview courtesy of SportsRadioInterviews.
On what Harrison is like as a person and a teammate:
"James Harrison is a big part of my growth. After my rookie year, I had a tough rookie year, and during the summer I worked out with him the whole time. And he basically just taught me how to work and how to be an athlete in this business. He was just substantial to my career and I look up to the guy and admire him. I have just nothing but the best things to say about him."
If he thinks that Harrison might have been baited into his comments or if something perhaps prompted him to say what he did:
"Yeah, I’m sure it was something. But James is a guy that’s misunderstood. A lot of people think he’s a bad person, but he just sometimes says some things that he shouldn’t. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t feel this way, he probably just got kind of mixed up with his words. But he’s a great guy."
If Harrison is actually the tough, scary guy that his image projects:
"No he’s not. He’s a great father, he does a lot in our community, he’s a Pittsburgh Steeler, we accept him, and I have nothing but the best things to say about him."
If there’s any feeling of embarrassment from an organizational standpoint when Harrison sheds negative light on the team like that:
"That’s a tough question, but it’s a very tough spot to be him. James, like I said earlier, he’s not the best with words sometimes, he’s definitely misunderstood at times. He loves the Steelers, I’m pretty sure he loves Rashard and Ben, they always do like a little celebration than everybody else before the game. I’m pretty sure he does have a bit of fire towards Goodell because of the fines. That was a bit unfair I thought because they don’t have a limit on the fines they give, and they just came up with fines and gave it to the guy and I felt like that was very unfair."