Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison is drawing a very clear line in the sand between remarks he made earlier this week, which seemed to suggest he received payment from head coach Mike Tomlin for a violent hit in 2010, and the 2012 “Bountygate” scandal involving the New Orleans Saints.
Harrison took to social media on Friday to make one thing clear: He was never given any direct orders from Tomlin to target players in exchange for money.
“Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY!” his post on Instagram read. “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.”
Harrison was forced to clarify remarks he made on the Barstool Sports’ “Going Deep” podcast Thursday when he said Tomlin handed him an envelope after he was fined $75,00 for hitting Cleveland Brown Mohamed Massaquoi with his helmet in 2010.
“Listen, on everything I love, on my daddy’s grave, I hit that man with about 50 percent of what I had and I just hit him because I wanted him to let loose of the ball,” he said. “If I had knew they was gonna fine me $75,000, I would have tried to kill him.”
He continued: “And, I ain’t gonna lie to you, when that happened, right? the G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that … I ain’t gonna say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”
Listeners then drew similarities between Harrison’s remarks and the Saints’ scandal in 2012 when head coach Sean Payton was accused of offering a similar bounty.
“Wow y’all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!?” Harrison said in his Instagram post.
He added that the only reason he was fined so significantly was because the league had started to crack down on its concussion protocol — something Massaquoi suffered from as a result of the hit.
“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,” he said.
Steelers president Art Rooney II has since released a statement on Harrison’s claim.
“I am very certain nothing like this ever happened,” Rooney said per ProFootballTalk. “I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this.”
Fox News’ Daniel Canova contributed to this report.