Broncos’ Shelby Harris takes credit for Steelers’ late-season meltdown
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ late-season collapse and offseason drama wasn’t Antonio Brown’s fault. Don’t blame Ben Roethlisberger, either.
The real culprit was Shelby Harris.
Harris was the Broncos defensive lineman who intercepted Roethlisberger on a third-and-goal pass with 1 minute, 3 seconds left in a Week 12 game in Denver. The pick blunted the Steelers comeback and sealed a 24-17 win for the Broncos.
The loss started the Steelers on a 2-4 spiral that led to their 9-6-1 record and absence from the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Harris recently was asked by NFL Network if he deserves any credit for the Steelers’ slide.
“Yea, kind of,” he said. “It kind of feels nice.”
The Roethlisberger-Brown relationship was strained from that point through the rest of the season. Roethlisberger blamed Brown for not running a “flat” route on the play and lamented not throwing the ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Brown didn’t respond initially, but he lobbed his share of shots at the quarterback after he bailed on his teammates for practice the week of the season finale and was inactive for a must-win game against Cincinnati.
Harris believes he is the impetus of the turmoil. If he doesn’t get his hands on Roethlisberger’s pass, perhaps the Steelers win in Denver, the collapse doesn’t happen and Brown is still with the Steelers.
“You have to think of it like this: After that game, they started taking shots at each other and it started going downhill,” Harris said. “Obviously, even on (the interception), it was an 11-man effort. It was something that made him hold the ball, it was something that made him kind of hesitate for a second. That’s not all just one person. But, you know, I had to catch it.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .