Jets' Kelvin Beachum defends ex-teammate James Harrison

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Kelvin Beachum considers former teammate James Harrison a friend and mentor, and he hopes he gets the opportunity to play against him this Sunday when the New York Jets face the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

"It would be amazing," Beachum said on Wednesday.

What the offensive tackle doesn't consider amazing is the way Harrison is getting bashed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Several players were critical of his decision to sign with the Patriots, with Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey saying, "He erased his own legacy."

Beachum, who played with the Steelers from 2012 to 2015, disagreed.

"Franco Harris didn't finish in Pittsburgh, Mike Webster didn't finish in Pittsburgh," Beachum told ESPN. "There have been a number of Pittsburgh greats who didn't finish their career in Pittsburgh.

"So what are you saying? Pouncey is my boy -- I talk to him all the time -- so there's no ill will. But what are you saying? I don't know the inner workings of that locker room, but you can't fault [Harrison]. I don't think that will taint what he's done in Pittsburgh."

After a brief pause, Beachum smiled and said, "It may be a couple of years before he's able to go back, but I don't think this will taint him."

Harrison spent all but one of his 15 seasons with the Steelers, making five Pro Bowls and winning two Super Bowl rings and a Defensive Player of the Year award. His playing time all but disappeared this season, so the Steelers released him this past Saturday and he wound up signing with the Patriots.

Beachum said he wasn't surprised.

"That's his nature, that's his DNA," he said. "At this point in his career, he's all about winning. You can't fault him. There's not much loyalty in the NFL, to say the least. When a player has a chance to thrive and win championships, you can't fault him for trying to do so."

If Harrison is active for the Patriots this Sunday, it'll be a matchup of two old friends -- Harrison rushing the passer against Beachum.

"I have a ton of respect for him, a ton of admiration," Beachum said. "I'd love to see him out there."