A day after his comments went viral, former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison on Friday clarified that coach Mike Tomlin never paid him for a 2010 helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and that there wasn’t a “Bountygate” system in place.
“The G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that [hit on Massaquoi],” Harrison told Barstool’s “Going Deep” podcast on May 6. “I’m not going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”
Harrison took to Instagram on Friday to say Tomlin never put a bounty on anyone.
“Wow y’all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!?,” Harrison wrote. “Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY! If you knew the full story of what happened back then you’d know that BS fine for a Legal Play wasn’t even penalized during the game.”
Harrison did not clarify in his Instagram post what he said on the podcast about being handed an envelope by Tomlin.
Harrison was initially fined $75,000 for the hit on Massaquoi, but it was later reduced by the NFL to $50,000. Massaquoi suffered a concussion as a result of the head-to-head hit, which was not flagged in the game.
Steelers president Art Rooney II strongly disputed Harrison’s initial claim in a statement issued Thursday night.
“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.”
Bill Parise, who is Harrison’s adviser and former agent, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Thursday that it “never happened.”
“Absolutely not,” said Parise, who was unaware of Harrison’s comments until contacted by the paper. “Never happened. I would have known that. It didn’t happen. James and I are still together. We were really close during our 18 years. He would have said something along the way.”
The NFL, which declined to comment on the situation, previously dealt with coaches paying players for hits in the New Orleans Saints‘ “Bountygate” scandal, where coaches offered cash rewards to players for knocking opponents out of games.
Harrison on Friday also took issue with the NFL initially selling photos of the hit on Massaquoi and profiting from it after his fine.
“When the league had to start pretending like they cared about player safety they took all those things down off their website and they started fining guys ridiculous amounts for the same plays they used to profit off of,” Harrison wrote. “EVERYBODY knew it — even these same media people and all the fans that were sending money to me and the team to cover the fine. AGAIN AT NO TIME did Mike T. EVER suggest anybody hurt anybody or that they’d be rewarded for anything like that.”