James Harrison: Steelers' Mike Tomlin 'Never' Set Bounties, Paid Me for Injuries

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2020

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Outside linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks off of the field with a Sunday Night Football game ball following the Steelers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison took to Instagram on Friday to clarify a statement he made about Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin handing him an envelope after he was fined for a hit on Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010.

Harrison wrote that there was no bounty system in place in Pittsburgh and that fans sent the team money to help cover the $50,000 fine for the hit:

"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. GTFOH with that BS!!!"

Harrison appeared on Barstool's Going Deep podcast this week (h/t ESPN's Brooke Pryor), which is where he first mentioned the envelope story: "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."

Massaquoi suffered a concussion on the hit in question, but Harrison was not penalized for it during the game.

After Harrison's appearance on the podcast, Steelers president Art Rooney II denied his account: "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 adviser and former agent, Bill Parise, also shot it down when speaking to 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."

Based on the nature of Harrison's story, it has been compared to the Bountygate scandal, which rocked the NFL and the New Orleans Saints in 2012.

Former Saints defensive assistant Mike Cerullo alleged that the Saints ran a bounty system from 2009-11 that resulted in players getting paid for big hits and injuries to certain opposing players. Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season, general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended eight games and assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended six games.

Harrison was a key defensive player for the Steelers from 2002-12 and then again from 2014-17. In 177 career regular-season games with Pittsburgh, Harrison registered 775 combined tackles, 122 tackles for loss, 80.5 sacks and 33 forced fumbles.

The 42-year-old Harrison, who retired after the 2017 season, was a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time First-Team All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion in Pittsburgh. He was also named the 2008 NFL defensive player of the year after registering 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles.

Tomlin was Harrison's head coach for 10 of the 14 seasons Harrison spent with the Steelers.