Former Pittsburgh Steelers star linebacker James Harrison said head coach Mike Tomlin gave him an envelope for an illegal hit on ex-Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010.
“The ‘G-est’ thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that [play],” Harrison said on Barstool Sports’ Going Deep podcast. “I’m not going to say what [was inside], but he handed me an envelope after that.”
Harrison initially was fined $75,000 for the devastating hit on Massaquoi, the largest amount he said he was ever fined. The NFL later reduced the penalty to $50,000.
Massaquoi sustained a concussion as a result of the helmet-to-helmet collision, which wasn’t flagged in the game.
“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,” Harrison said on the podcast. “If I had [known] they [were] going to fine me $75,000, I would have tried to kill him.”
Harrison’s fine from the hit was high because the league considered him a repeat offender, as he had been fined $5,000 earlier that season for unnecessary roughness.
On Thursday, Steelers president Art Rooney II issued a statement denying Harrison’s claims.
“I am very certain nothing like this ever happened,” Rooney said. “I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this.”
The NFL previously dealt with coaches making payments to players for big hits or intentionally injuring others in the New Orleans Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal. In the Saints’ alleged bounty program, coaches offered incentives to players for knocking opponents out of games.
During a radio interview Thursday on Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan, Saints head coach Sean Payton was asked about Harrison’s comments. He said fans “shouldn’t hold their breath” for an NFL investigation.
“That’ll be something that’s tucked away or under the rug at Park Avenue,” Payton said. “They’ll look into it briefly. … Listen, don’t get me started on that. I lost $6 million in salary. And honestly it was something that I’ll never truly get over because I know how it was handled and how it was run and the reasons behind it. And that’s just the truth.”
Harrison played 13 seasons for the Steelers, winning two Super Bowl championships with the organization. The five-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All-Pro choice also had one-year stints with the Cincinnati Bengals (2013) and New England Patriots (2017) before retiring.