PITTSBURGH – (Staff and Wire Service Report) – Ex-Steelers linebacker James Harrison hinted Thursday that Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin reimbursed him for the fine he took after leveling an opponent in 2010, but Steelers president Art Rooney II and Harrison’s agent denied the story.
Speaking on Barstool’s “Going Deep” podcast with former Steelers teammate Willie Colon, Harrison said of a helmet-to-helmet hit that concussed then-Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, “The g-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that. I’m not going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”
The hit prompted the NFL to fine Harrison $75,000, though no penalty was called on the play.
After the podcast’s release, Rooney responded in a statement, “I am very certain nothing like this ever happened. I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this.”
Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Absolutely not. Never happened. I would have known that. It didn’t happen. …
“James and I are still together. We were really close during our 18 years. He would have said something along the way.”
Harrison took to his social media accounts a day later and wrote, “Wow y’all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!? Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY! If you knew the full story of what happened back then you’d know that BS fine for a Legal Play wasn’t even penalized during the game. The league was getting pressure because the first concussion lawsuits were starting and they had to look like they cared about player safety all of a sudden. Before that they had been SELLING a photo of THAT SAME PLAY FOR $55 on the NFL website with other videos of the NFL’S GREATEST HITS that the league Profited On back then.
“When the league had to start pretending like they cared about player safety they took all those things down off their website and they started fining guys ridiculous amounts for the same plays they used to profit off of. EVERYBODY knew it — even these same media people and all the fans that were sending money to me and the team to cover the fine. AGAIN AT NO TIME did Mike T. EVER suggest anybody hurt anybody or that they’d be rewarded for anything like that…”
Paying a player to injure opponents is the rules violation that led the NFL to suspend New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for the 2012 season.
Payton was asked Thursday about Harrison’s remarks during an interview with Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan, and he said he doubted the NFL would investigate.
“That’ll be something that’s tucked away or under the rug at Park Avenue,” Payton said. “They’ll look into it briefly. …
“Listen, don’t get me started on that. I lost $6 million in salary. And honestly it was something that I’ll never truly get over because I know how it was handled and how it was run and the reasons behind it. And that’s just the truth.”
Harrison, 42, spent 15 years in the NFL, playing for the Steelers (2002-12, 2014-17), the Cincinnati Bengals (2013) and the New England Patriots (2017). He recorded 84.5 sacks, 34 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and eight interceptions in 193 games (117 starts). He made five Pro Bowls, was twice a first-team All-Pro, and was named the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year.
He was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams in Pittsburgh. In Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals, Harrison ran back in interception 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half.
–Field Level Media