James Harrison Calls Out Steelers’ Standard: ‘Not What It Is’

The standard is the standard. That’s become a popular saying around the Pittsburgh Steelers since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007.

James Harrison

For a long time, the Steelers’ standard was winning championship. But while appearing on The Pat McAfee Show on February 7, former Steelers linebacker James Harrison voiced that the team’s expectations have fallen the last few years.

Harrison argued that should never be the case for Pittsburgh’s football team.

“The expectations should never change. I think the expectations have become, ‘We don’t want to have a losing season,’” Harrison told McAfee. “I’m not throwing salt or flak at anybody. But the Pittsburgh Steelers standard is to win Lombardis. When you go into that building, there’s six of them sitting there, and right now, we’re not even winning a playoff game.

“I think we need to get back to what the standard of the Pittsburgh Steelers legacy, the lore is. That’s [non-losing seasons] just not what it is.”

The Steelers have never had a losing season under Tomlin. In fact, Pittsburgh’s last losing season was more than 20 years ago when the team went 6-10 in 2003.

But the Steelers also haven’t won a playoff game since 2016. They are 0-5 in the postseason since their last playoff win.

James Harrison Gets Candid on Steelers’ Standard

While the Steelers have been incredibly consistent under Tomlin, some mediocrity has appeared to set in as well. Although they haven’t had a losing season, the Steelers have won 10 games just twice over the last six seasons. During that time, they’ve made three playoff appearances but haven’t won a playoff game.

The last time the Steelers had a six-year period with only two 10-win seasons was 1998-2003. The franchise won two playoff games during that stretch.

Pittsburgh’s current seven-year playoff drought is the longest in the franchise’s history since the team’s first postseason game in 1972.

Like Steelers fans, Harrison largely only knows success from his playing career. The Steelers won 12 playoff games, including two Super Bowls, in his nine years with the franchise. He also played in two other Super Bowls — one with Pittsburgh and another with the New England Patriots.

Art Rooney Says Steelers Have ‘Some Urgency’

In the franchise’s defense, though, Harrison’s comments may be more suited for certain members of the media as opposed to the Steelers organization.

The media has made a big deal out of Tomlin’s record 17 straight seasons to begin a career without a losing campaign. However, the Steelers haven’t celebrated it publicly.

In fact, during his annual end-of-season press briefing, team president Art Rooney II sounded a little like a disgruntled fan rather than an owner content with another non-losing and playoff appearance.

“We had enough of this,” Rooney said in his annual end-of-season press briefing on January 29, via Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola. “It’s time to get some wins.

“It’s time to take these next steps. There’s some urgency there, for sure.”

The Steelers have certainly experienced a great deal of success over the last 50 years. They have been a model franchise not just for the NFL, but all sports.

It’s important to note, though, that they haven’t been immune to transition. While the team won the occasional playoff game, the 1980s didn’t exactly match the Steelers “legacy or lore” that Harrison described.

Then despite five division titles in the 1990s, the Steelers din’t win a Lombardi trophy.

No Steelers fan will disagree with what Harrison said about aiming for a high standard. But assembling a Super Bowl caliber team is also something that doesn’t happen overnight.

And it very likely won’t happen until the Steelers find an answer at quarterback.

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