PITTSBURGH -- Steelers linebacker James Harrison can't believe there's so much fuss being made about his decision to skip the Super Bowl champions' White House visit with President Barack Obama on Thursday.
Harrison also bypassed the traditional ceremony in June 2006, when the Steelers were honored by President George W. Bush at the White House.
"Why is it a big issue now that I'm not going if it wasn't a big issue the last time?" Harrison said Tuesday after an offseason practice.
Harrison was a backup when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL during the 2005 season, but he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season. His 100-yard interception return for a touchdown during a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII is the longest scoring play in the game's history.
"Hey, James ain't changed," said Harrison, whose longtime fear of flying might have played a role in his decision not to accompany his teammates to Washington. "I guess my profile did, but I didn't change. I'm not going because I don't want to go."
Harrison also said -- but not seriously -- that the White House isn't in one of Washington's safer areas.
"It's not a good neighborhood over there," he said. "It's a bad neighborhood."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press