Former Steelers linebacker James Harrison believes coach Mike Tomlin needs to take control of the team drama to change the storyline for the 2019 season.
During an appearance on “NFL Total Access,” Harrison explained his take on what has happened with the franchise amid running back Le’Veon Bell’s holdout and wide receiver Antonio Brown’s trade request last season. Harrison pointed to Tomlin’s leadership, saying he “has allowed a certain amount of things to go on” and it has gotten too far out of control to manage it himself.
“I start off at this same thing with [Mike] Tomlin. The head guy has to be the one that takes charge,” Harrison explained Thursday. “I believe it’s fault on, even with my situation, it’s fault on me. It’s fault on Tomlin. It’s fault on the team. It’s got to this point because Tomlin has allowed a certain amount of things to go on and rather players take advantage of that or step beyond that, it’s got to a point where it’s so far out that now he can’t reign it back in so to speak. And with that being the case it’s Tomlin. It could be some blame on A.B. It could be some blame on Ben. It can go around.”
Harrison also addressed Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert’s recent comments about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Colbert told reporters Wednesday that he believes Roethlisberger is the unquestionable leader of the team. Harrison, however, doesn’t necessarily think that’s the case.
Harrison, who spent nearly 13 seasons in Pittsburgh alongside Roethlisberger, indicated Colbert was likely trying to “show support” for Roethlisberger, but got “a little overzealous with it,” according to NFL.com.
“For me, Ben being the unquestioned leader, I have no problem with that situation other than the fact that no one is beyond unquestioned,” Harrison said. “That’s a big statement. If I’m in that locker room, I just got put under ’52 kids.’ I’m feeling some sort of way. Even if I didn’t feel that type of way before, like even if there wasn’t a rift on the radar. Now I’m like ‘Is that how they really view me up top?’
“And I think this is what Antonio may have said where he said he felt like Ben had an owner’s mentality. And you have the GM that’s saying this and that’s how guys may feel, even though that may not be the case. As far as when I was there that’s not how I felt. I communicated with Ben just like I did any other player. We agree or disagree and so on and so forth.”
The Steelers are expected to see significant changes this offseason with Bell entering free agency and Brown forcing his way out of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney II indicated last month the franchise intends to sign Roethlisberger, who turns 37 in March, to a contract extension as his current deal expires after the 2019 season. Colbert added they want Roethlisberger to “finish his career here.”
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