James Harrison: Mike Tomlin needs to take charge of the rapidly changing Steelers

A year ago, the Steelers‘ biggest issue was signing Le’Veon Bell to a long-term deal. That didn’t happen, Bell sat out the season and now he’s weeks away from free agency. And when the Steelers take the field in 2019, not only will they be without Bell, one of the league’s most dynamic running backs, Antonio Brown, one of the league’s best players, will also be elsewhere.

In retrospect, Brown’s impending departure was inevitable. His behavior was reportedly tolerated because of his production. And for James Harrison, the former Steelers linebacker who retired after the 2017 season, the buck stops with coach Mike Tomlin.

“I start off at this same thing with Tomlin,” Harrison said during an appearance on NFL Network. “The head guy has to be the one that takes charge. I believe it’s fault on, even with my situation, it’s fault on me. It’s fault on Tomlin. It’s fault on the team. It’s got to this point because Tomlin has allowed a certain amount of things to go on and rather players take advantage of that or step beyond that, it’s got to a point where it’s so far out that now he can’t reign it back in so to speak. And with that being the case it’s Tomlin. It could be some blame on A.B. It could be some blame on Ben. It can go around.”

In related news, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said this week that Ben Roethlisberger has earned the right to call teammates out, even if it’s on his weekly radio show. Harrison has no issue with this but wonders if younger players might.

“For me, Ben being the unquestioned leader, I have no problem with that situation other than the fact that no one is beyond unquestioned,” Harrison said. “That’s a big statement. If I’m in that locker room, I just got put under ’52 kids.’ I’m feeling some sort of way. Even if I didn’t feel that type of way before, like even if there wasn’t a rift on the radar. Now I’m like ‘Is that how they really view me up top?’

“And I think this is what Antonio may have said where he said he felt like Ben had an owner’s mentality. And you have the GM that’s saying this and that’s how guys may feel, even though that may not be the case. As far as when I was there that’s not how I felt. I communicated with Ben just like I did any other player. We agree or disagree and so on and so forth.”

Harrison’s remarks are nothing new; in July 2018, after playing for both the Steelers and Patriots the season before, he explained why Bill Belichick was a better coach than Tomlin.

“Mike Tomlin is good as a head coach,” Harrison told “Undisputed” at the time. “He’s a player’s coach. I think he needs to be a little bit more disciplined. Other than that, the big thing with Belichick, he’s very regimented, he’s disciplined. Everybody is going to be on the same page … Over there, their coaching staff is like that. … I ain’t never been to so many meetings in my life.”

The Steelers enter the offseason with more questions than answers, and there’s a good chance they enter 2019 with the Browns and Ravens considered the favorites in the division.

And there are no quick fixes for a team that missed the playoffs after a 7-2-1 start last season.

“Nothing is going to be accomplished in one day,” Harrison said. “It’s a day-by-day thing.”

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