On Friday, James Harrison made his first public return to Pittsburgh since being released by the Steelers in late December.
He attended a charity event hosted by former teammate Brett Keisel. “Shear Da Beard” is an event where various people get to cut off a piece of Keisel’s infamous beard, with all proceeds going to cancer programs at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Harrison’s appearance at the event wasn’t surprising as he and Keisel were teammates for 10 years and are very close. The two have previously gone on hunting trips together, and Harrison attended this same event last year.
What was surprising was that Harrison walked on stage wearing Patriots colors.
Even with Harrison wearing navy blue, red and white, instead of black and gold, he received a loud ovation from the crowd.
He cut off part of a beard and then left the stage without saying anything.
Just days after being released by the Steelers, Harrison signed with the rival Patriots, who were considered the biggest roadblock for Pittsburgh in the AFC.
But the Steelers couldn’t get past the Jacksonville Jaguars to even get a chance to play the Patriots.
Harrison was a big contributor down the stretch for New England, which advanced to the Super Bowl before falling to the Philadelphia Eagles.
There was clearly some bad blood between Harrison and the Steelers after the release, but the fans still seem to love the 39-year-old linebacker.
Those in attendance cheered for Harrison just as loudly as they cheered for Ben Roethlisberger when he took the stage for the event.
Harrison is a free agent and will be 40 in May, but he says he plans on returning for at least one more season.
“I maybe want to play a year at 40, maybe 41,” he said prior to the Super Bowl.
The last 40-year-old linebacker in the NFL also happened to play for the Patriots: Junior Seau in 2009.
“At some point in time, I’m going to have to stop [playing],” Harrison said as to why he set his career as two more years maximum. “I told my son [James III] he could play contact football when I stop, so I’m going to have to give it up in the near future, so he can start getting adjusted to playing. I don’t want him to wait too long.”
Regardless if he’s done this year, next year or two years from now, most people still expect Harrison to sign one last ceremonial contract with Pittsburgh so he can retire as a Steeler.
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