Out of bounds: Harrison unwise to target Steelers teammates

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison tends to speak his mind, but his latest rant, mental cleansing, diatribe -- whatever you want to call it -- takes the right of free expression to a new level. And this time, it could cost him far more than the hefty fines he has received from the NFL.

In excerpts of a Men's Journal article released Wednesday, Harrison takes concussive aim at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell but unloads far more scathing and damaging shots at Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, among others, and running back Rashard Mendenhall.

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It's one thing to unload on Goodell or the Baltimore Ravens or whomever, but to cast the napalm on his own locker room like Harrison did could cause problems to fester on a team that has used adversity as a rallying point.

On Goodell: "My rep is James Harrison, mean son of a (expletive) who loves hitting the hell out of people. But up until last year, there was no word of me being dirty -- till Roger Goodell, who's a crook and a puppet, said I was the dirtiest player in the league. If that man was on fire and I had to (urinate) to put him out, I wouldn't do it. I hate him and will never respect him."

On Roethlisberger throwing interceptions in the Super Bowl: "Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain't that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does."

There's more -- Harrison went off on former New England Patriots-turned-broadcasters Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi, Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing and anyone or anything else that was on his mind -- but let's keep things to Goodell and Roethlisberger for now.

First off, as vile as Harrison's comments about Goodell might seem, he's not singing solo in the choir of NFL players. I've spoken to dozens of players who view Goodell as Public Enemy No. 1. He's the face of the owners in the lockout. He's not liked for that. He's also judge and jury sometimes. The players don't like that. Whatever the reason, they aren't fond of Goodell.

I had one highly respected Pro Bowl player tell me this summer before an interview, "Don't even mention (Goodell's) name around me."

The damning components about Harrison's comments in the article, which he was interviewed for in May, are the shots he took at his own team. If he feels that way about Roethlisberger's picks in the Super Bowl, cool. If he doesn't like Big Ben, OK. To publicly put him on blast? Not good.

The Steelers, from ownership to coach Mike Tomlin to players throughout the locker room, have come to Harrison's defense over and over when he has been fined or disciplined by the league for his vicious hits that have left some players injured. They've agreed with him that the organization and Harrison, in particular, have been singled out. His cause has been their cause.

So what does Harrison do for them? What he said he wouldn't do to Goodell if the commissioner was on fire.

For Harrison to take shots at Roethlisberger's performance was quite hypocritical, too. Harrison had one tackle -- a sack -- in Super Bowl XLV. Yet he's cracking on the quarterback who has made numerous big plays throughout his career to get Pittsburgh -- and Harrison -- two championship rings. Not that Harrison hasn't made his share of great, impactful plays, but it has been a team effort through and through.

I can't see Harrison's teammates coming to his defense. Why should they? He hung them out there. Whether he says his remarks were off the record or misconstrued, it's too late. Harrison might be lone-wolfing it from now on, which might be how he wants things anyway.

This is hardly what the Steelers needed, especially since they might be back together in a week or two when the lockout is over.

An offseason after dealing with Roethlisberger's 2010 courtroom drama in a rape investigation, Mendenhall made comments on Twitter following the death of Osama Bin Laden that were viewed as offensive and inflammatory. Hugely popular wide receiver Hines Ward was arrested last week on suspicion of drunk driving.

The once-pristine image of the highly successful Steelers continues to take hits. They've always managed to rally. They've always taken an us-against-the-world approach that has served them well on the field. Harrison might have thrown a grenade on that bond.

Harrison might not be included in the "us" part anymore. The guys who've had his back might feel like a lot of quarterbacks Harrison has pummeled -- blindsided and too woozy.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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