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Steelers' Art Rooney II: 'Blame on both sides' in James Harrison situation

Joe Rutter
| Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, 4:36 p.m.
James Harrison (92) of the New England Patriots and teammate Rob Gronkowski (87) warm up prior to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018.
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James Harrison (92) of the New England Patriots and teammate Rob Gronkowski (87) warm up prior to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018.

The last thing Art Rooney II wanted to see Sunday was linebacker James Harrison playing in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots.

“I would've liked to have seen James have five sacks in the playoff game (for us) and retire on the podium with a Super Bowl trophy,” Rooney II said Wednesday.

Harrison didn't get to hoist the trophy — for the Patriots or Steelers — but he did finish the season with one of the Steelers' most-hated rivals. Rooney, the Steelers team president, wished that scenario could have been avoided.

The Steelers released Harrison, who was unhappy with his lack of playing time, on Dec. 24, and he resurfaced a few days later with New England. He was a regular contributor on defense during the Patriots' run to the Super Bowl, which resulted in a 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

“We had discussions about James over the course of the season, and I'll just say it was a disappointment,” Rooney said. “James' career here, I would have hoped to have it end a different way. … I'll say that there is probably blame on both sides of the fence on that one, but it's the way it turned out.

“In terms of him going to New England, when you make a decision to let a player go, you know somebody can pick them up. You can't sit here and worry too much about where it might go from here once you've made the decision. You're better off moving on.”

Rooney was asked why the Steelers didn't continue deactivating him on game days, which coach Mike Tomlin did six times before Harrison was released. Harrison also dressed for three games but did not play a snap.

“I don't want to go into the details of what was discussed about it,” Rooney said. “Again, I'll just say that it's disappointing that a career that James had here had to end this way. These things happen sometimes. You'd rather not have that happen that way, but that's where we wound up.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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