When any player during championship week comments on their opponent, it often comes off feeling disingenuous, or at least a little hollow. The main goal is not to rile anybody up more than they already will be on Sunday.
But when Patriots players talk about how terrifying Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison is, that's something which comes from the heart.
"I've been a huge fan of him before I got in the league, and just to see and kind of have an idea where he came from, it's unbelievable to show how hard he's worked to get to where he's got," Patriots receiver Julian Edelman said, via The Boston Herald. "He's a large man that is fast, explosive, and if he's coming my way, it's going to be a 'get down.'"
Added Martellus Bennett, who will actually have to hit Harrison on Sunday: "He's almost as old as my pops, and he's still playing like a beast out there."
Players almost never get to go out on their own terms as champions. It happened with Peyton Manning a year ago, but the James Harrisons of the world are often forced into an end they did not want, without a Super Bowl ring on their finger. While Harrison has expressed a desire to come back in 2017 at age 39 -- which makes perfect sense since he led the team in sacks this season with five -- this is obviously the best chance he'll have to make it to the big game again.
Pittsburgh will be challenged by the salary cap this offseason should they end up doing long-term deals for Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown (or simply franchising Bell). While their cap trouble is nowhere near as serious as previous offseasons, it will be hard to balance keeping existing talent and acquiring new complementary pieces to aid the roster. Plus, as the Seahawks well know, no talented team is guaranteed to make it back just because of a great lineup.
Harrison seems to be one of the last links to a different era of football, which is why he's so revered and appreciated. Inspiring universal fear into the hearts of opponents is no small task, after all.