James Harrison did not ruin Steelers football legacy, Maurkice Pouncey says

PITTSBURGH -- James Harrison roiled Steelers players by forcing his way out of Pittsburgh and signing with the New England Patriots in late December.

Fittingly, Harrison helped New England reach the Super Bowl by sacking Blake Bortles in the AFC title game. This week, he's one of the Patriots' most entertaining storylines.

The Steelers' locker room was quite the scene on Dec. 27, when center Maurkice Pouncey and others blasted their longtime teammate.

"He erased himself," Pouncey told reporters. "He erased his own legacy here."

Pouncey took a softer approach a month later from the Pro Bowl, explaining to ESPN exactly what he meant by the line.

"Harrison, I've been taking some heat of that, too, because I was talking about his legacy," Pouncey said last week. "When I say legacy, I was speaking like, you know how it is, you're in Pittsburgh now. For him to come back to Pittsburgh inside the locker room and organization, it's different for him. Is he going to ruin his football legacy? F--- no. He won the MVP of the defense, 14-year career, he has so many accolades -- that doesn't erase it. But when you come back to Pittsburgh and you live there and your kids live there, all right, it's a little different."

Apparently, the operative word in Pouncey's original quote is "here" -- as in, inside the Steelers' locker room. Returning to the team in some capacity could have a markedly different feel for players who remain bitter over Harrison's exit.

On the field, Harrison's résumé still stands.

Harrison had a little fun with the legacy line when asked about it at Super Bowl media day.

"Ask Franco," said Harrison, a nod to Hall of Famer Franco Harris, who finished his career with the Seattle Seahawks.

Time has a way of healing these issues, which is why Harrison will likely be remembered as the franchise's all-time sack leader in a few years, even if this week he's in the Super Bowl while some Steelers settled for the Pro Bowl. This is one case where the Steelers are jealous of Harrison.

"As soon as I turn on the TV [Sunday], I'll see the Philadelphia Eagles logo or the New England Patriots logo and it's going to burn me inside," Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said last week.