PHOENIX – Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have talked so reverently about James Harrison at the NFL owners meetings you would think the outside linebacker retired.
Harrison has, in fact, done the opposite, signing a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this week.
Harrison said on social media last Saturday that he would pick between the Steelers and Tennessee Titans where Dick LeBeau is now running the defense. The five-time Pro Bowler revealed on the “Ike Taylor Show” how difficult a decision it turned out to be for him.
“I wanted to be with [LeBeau] again, to be honest with you. I am not going to sugarcoat it,” Harrison said Tuesday on TribLive Radio. “It was real hard. You know how it is with Dicky. You don’t want to let him down. You want to be loyal to him to a fault.”
Harrison said he had been in contact with LeBeau, who joined the Titans as an assistant head coach/defense last month. He promised to call LeBeau if the Steelers made him an offer.
Harrison signed a two-year, $2.75 million contract with Pittsburgh, continuing an unlikely chapter that started when the Steelers talked him out of retirement last September. He said the Titans offered him the same deal but the pull of LeBeau wasn’t quite enough to convince Harrison to turn down the Steelers.
“It wasn’t good business move to go to Tennessee because I would’ve had to uproot everything,” Harrison said. “I already had everything in Pittsburgh combined with the fact that my legacy is in Pittsburgh.”
The Steelers were happy to land Harrison given their need at outside linebacker and the value he also provides as a leader and example in the locker room.
“He’s got a unique experience and a unique story and a unique journey,” Tomlin said of Harrison. “I think that he’s a walking, talking, breathing blue-print for our young guys particularly at the position, many of which grew up watching him do it for us. I think he’s embracing that. I think he has a level of appreciation for that. I think that it’s his way of giving back to a game that’s been obviously a tremendous blessing to him.”