NEW YORK (AFP) – Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on Wednesday he has no ill will to linebacker James Harrison after the long-time Steeler signed with the New England Patriots.
The 39-year-old defender was released by the Steelers on Saturday to make room for tackle Marcus Gilbert’s return from a four-game suspension. Harrison cleared waivers to become a free agent, then inked a one-year deal with the Patriots for the regular-season finale and playoffs.
Roethlisberger wished Harrison well even though he joins a defending NFL champion Patriots team that could very well face the Steelers next month to decide a berth in the Super Bowl.
“James has to do what James has to do. It’s not like he called and asked me if he should or not,” Roethlisberger said.
“James was out there. He’s a free agent, he has to do what’s best for him and his family. I wish him the best. I’ve had a lot of good years with him.”
“Big Ben” said he was not overly worried that Harrison could share information about his former team with his new one and make it easier for the Patriots to defeat the Steelers should they meet again in a January playoff game.
“That’s on James. If they want to ask him about every single piece of information he has, that’s what this league – other people do that, too,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m not worried about it. We don’t play them this week. We don’t play them next week. So we’ll see.”
The Steelers and Patriots are each 12-3 and have earned first-round playoff byes. Each host American Conference second-round games. Should they both win, they would meet for a Super Bowl spot in a rematch of New England’s 27-24 victory earlier this month.
Harrison will be able to play for the Patriots in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the New York Jets.
Harrison had a club-record 80.5 quarterback sacks for the Steelers but his role diminished as defensive scheme changes gave more pass defending responsibilities to outside linebackers.
“We’re playing the Jets this week. I don’t even know what that has to do with it,” Belichick said. “Maybe I’m missing something, I don’t know.”
Belichick gave short answers on questions about Harrison, repeating his refrain that the Jets were next on the schedule. The Patriots have been hit hard at the linebacker spot by injuries.