Were James Harrison's Big Ben Comments Proof of a Steel City Rift?

Nick Sero@@thesportscannonCorrespondent IIIJuly 20, 2011

Was James Harrison voicing a larger opinion?
Was James Harrison voicing a larger opinion?Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The year was 2006 and the Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off of their first Super Bowl championship in over 25 seasons.

After starting the season with a win over the Miami Dolphins at home, the team went on to lose three games, including a home loss to division rival Cincinnati Bengals.

Then it happened, something that may have been bottled up within the defensive minds in the Pittsburgh locker room. Joey Porter called out starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The incredibly outspoken and emotional leader of the defense, and perhaps the entire team had enough of Ben’s attitude.

The Steelers’ quarterback would admit later that early in his career he may not have been the best teammate, he may have been too cocky and he may have forgotten about the team.

Porter would then call Ben “the last person in, and the first person to leave” and that the Super Bowl-winning quarterback had yet to earn the respect of his teammates. No one interviewed to this day will stand up for Ben or refute Porter’s comments.

Though only in his third season at the time, and yet to be heralded as a defensive MVP, James Harrison may have felt the same way.

Though hardly making the field in his first three seasons, Harrison had the respect of his fellow Steeler linebackers. Most importantly, he had the respect of James Farrior, the Steelers’ Middle Linebacker and defensive captain.

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a defensive play against the Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won 31-25.  (Photo by Kevin
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Some felt that the player the Steelers’ defense most had to overcome in the 2005 Super Bowl was their own quarterback. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions in that game and ended with a 22.6 quarterback rating, the lowest ever by a winning quarterback.  

The rift between Roethlisberger and his teammates was evident then, but an eventual sit down with backup quarterback Charlie Batch seemed to change things.

Now you hear about the trips to the lake Roethlisberger takes with his offensive line, and how every week he treats his linemen to dinner of their choice. You don’t hear too much love coming from the defensive side of the ball, however.

Why should there be though, right? They play at different times, they don’t share any of the same meetings and they are constantly trying to one up the other in practices.

It doesn’t keep defensive leaders on other teams from defending and bragging about their quarterbacks, however.

Aaron Rodgers had all the reasons in the world to go down the same “cocky” road as Roethlisberger. He was never expected to lead his team the way he has, and his beginning as a Packer was rocky, at best.

Still, Charles Woodson and Clay Mathews exclaimed in post-Super Bowl XLV press conferences how their quarterback led them to victory.

The same can’t be said about the Super Bowl XLIII press conferences, and the general lack of Roethlisberger praise. Not that there weren’t any, it’s just that no one jumped to exclaim their praise besides Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes.

Now here we sit, over half a year removed from the Steelers’ Super Bowl XLIII loss and again we here negative comments concerning the quarterback from a Steeler linebacker.

Although he has reportedly explained to Roethlisberger that his comments were taken out of context, Harrison had disparaging comments printed about Roethlisberger’s Super Bowl performance.

“..Hand the ball off and stop trying to be Peyton Manning. You ain’t that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does.”

If that doesn’t indicate that at least Harrison feels Ben’s head may still be inflated, I don’t what does.

Now let me clarify why I am writing this article, before Steeler Nation jumps all over me. I don’t for one second advocate calling out any teammate in the media. If you’re going to do it, you do it in house and with your teammate present.

Joey Porter’s comments came when the team needed it, and it may have helped to change the dynamic of at least the offense.

What I am wondering is if the dynamic between Ben and his defensive counterparts has ever gotten better, and if the rift may be bigger than anyone outside of the locker room knows.

“At least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again.”

For now on were going to wonder what the defense is thinking when their quarterback does throw an interception. Are they upset that Ben has commanded so much money, even though it is commonly thought that the defense has been the deciding factor in their strong run throughout the 2000’s?

The answer is that we don’t know, and hopefully Steeler Nation won’t until it is far down the line, and the team has added a few Lombardi Trophies to their collection. Much like the Joey Porter comments becoming increasingly more common knowledge years down the line.

We’ve seen instances where Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes both questioned Ben’s toughness and there have been former Steelers become very outspoken on Ben’s attitude after his alleged sexual abuse in Atlanta.

The bottom line is that James Harrison’s comments happened, and they at least somewhat reflect the beliefs of No. 92.

Considering Harrison has had the support of his teammates in the media concerning the outlandish fines handed down for the league office, there is reason to believe he was speaking for more than just himself.

Ben is great, not just a good quarterback and the Steelers would be worse without him than with him.

But when a lockout has hampered organized team activities and the team has seen less of each other than ever, you have to wonder if any sort of team disconnect will speak much louder than in recent seasons.

Nick Sero is a featured writer and fantasy sports expert for The Sports Cannon. You can read his personal blog, catch up on fantasy baseball and football news by checking TSC everyday, or following The Sports Cannon on Facebook and Twitter.


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