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The Pittsburgh Steelers' all-time sacks leader was on the other side of a blind-side bull rush Wednesday afternoon.

James Harrison faced a blitz of criticism from some of his former teammates Wednesday, one day after his hastened signing with the New England Patriots.

Harrison's departure was the talk of the Steelers locker room with a handful of veteran players ripping the 39-year-old linebacker for joining the enemy with only one week left in the regular season and a month prior to a possible AFC championship game rematch.

Nobody was more vocal than All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey.

"He erased himself," Pouncey said. "He erased his own legacy here."

Although the Steelers released Harrison on Saturday to make room for tackle Marcus Gilbert, who was activated from a suspension, Pouncey said the 39-year-old linebacker orchestrated his departure.

"That's something he wanted to do," Pouncey said. "It's not like (management) got together and said, 'We want to cut James Harrison.'

"No, that's not what happened. He needs to come out and admit that."

Unhappy with playing time: Harrison made it known he was unhappy with his playing time. After losing the right outside linebacker job to rookie T.J. Watt in training camp, Harrison was active for only five of 14 games and had played just 40 snaps. He played fewer snaps than other backup outside linebackers Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats.

"If you didn't want to be here, just come out and say it," Pouncey said. "Don't make it look like the team and the organization did that. You think the organization wanted to get rid of James Harrison? Let's be serious. C'mon now."

Outside linebacker Bud Dupree also said Harrison forced the Steelers hand.

"He made it known during the season, and his actions show it when he got it into that circumstance," Dupree said.

Teammates feel betrayed: Harrison's actions left some teammates feeling betrayed.

"If I wanted out, I wouldn't let the team take the blame for it," Pouncey said. "I tell you, 'I want to be out. I want to go somewhere else and play more. I want to start somewhere else.' That's me, as a man, that's what I would do. I'm not going to go and say all, 'The team didn't play me. I want to get cut.'

"No, that's not what it was. I'm glad the team is being respectful about it, but we're going to be speaking the truth."

Added Dupree: "People are like, 'This is a victim thing.' We got everybody on the team we need. I just don't want the media to portray that we are the reason that he left or the Steelers are the reason he left. ... Because that ain't the reason. He just chose to leave. He chose to leave, and he did."

Signing with rival: Chickillo was shocked that Harrison signed so quickly with the Patriots, the Steelers' nemesis in the playoffs since 2001.

Asked if it was difficult to see Harrison leave, Chickillo paused for several seconds to gather his thoughts.

"It's hard to see him go there," Chickillo said.

That sentiment was shared by safety Mike Mitchell, who said he would never leave a team to play for its rival.

"To each his own," Mitchell said. "Everybody's got to do what they got to do. He made his decision. He's a big boy. I just probably wouldn't have done it for $59,000."

Surviving without him: That figure is the one week salary for the NFL veteran minimum.

Pouncey said Harrison's unhappiness didn't splinter the Steelers locker room, and they'll survive without him.

"Ain't no problem," he said. "A guy don't want to be around here? We don't care. ... Bye. Have fun."

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

 

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