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James Harrison: “I don’t hate the Steelers”

James Harrison

In this photo taken, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison warms up before NFL football practice in Pittsburgh. The defending AFC champions will begin their quest for a seventh Lombardi Trophy in Denver on Sunday with a lot of the faces that have led the team to three Super Bowl appearances since 2005. Several of the veterans understand this could be their final playoff push together, and they could be getting healthy at the right time. Linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison have only played on the field at the same time sporadically since early October due to injuries. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


It’s obvious from James Harrison’s free agent wish-list he wanted to stay close to Pittsburgh.

But upon signing with the Bengals (after some pre-Elvis Dumervil flirtation from the Ravens), Harrison struck a businesslike tone about his former team.

I don’t hate the Steelers. Am I disappointed? Yeah,” he said, via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “But when the negotiations first started, I basically knew the situation was going to be what it was going to be. My compromise wasn’t going to come to theirs and theirs wasn’t going to come to mine, which made business sense for them. They did what they did, and what made business sense for me, I did what I did, so we had a parting of the ways.

“I wish them the best except for when we play, and of course I’m assuming they wish me the best except when we play them.”

As for the Bengals, they knew from first-hand experience that Harrison could play, but they wanted to find out if he was physically well, and whether he’d fit into a locker room that skews young.

They put both to the test during his visit, and coach Marvin Lewis said Harrison “bared his soul” during a meeting with linebackers coach Paul Guenther.

“It’s nice to have one veteran guy. I don’t know where that is around the league but if we hadn’t made the signing we would be the youngest group in the league,” Guenther said. “It’s nice to have him, the guys can pull knowledge from him and it will be a good addition.”

Harrison also insisted that playing the strongside in the Bengals 4-3 defense wasn’t as much of a transition from his nine years of 3-4 in Pittsburgh.

But making the transition from fixture for the Steelers to a bit of a figurehead for a younger team with other playmakers might be the more difficult part.