What James Harrison Joining the Patriots Means

The Patriots have taken a lot from Pittsburgh this century. Now they've nabbed a chunk of the team's soul, too.
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A day later, the picture is still disorienting—Tom Brady and James Harrison smiling, shoulder to shoulder, teammates. Tuesday, the Steelers legend signed with the Patriots after being cut by Pittsburgh on Saturday. The 39-year-old linebacker will try to fill a need for New England, which is thin on the end of its defensive line (and currently ranked 29th in yards allowed). Harrison’s ability to produce is still unclear. He has only logged 40 snaps this season, and no team claimed him when he was on waivers earlier this week. But it's still easy to see him impacting the AFC playoffs.

If things hold to form, the Patriots' first playoff game will come against the Chiefs. That's the one opponent that Harrison has had success against this year, contributing three tackles and a sack in Week 6. At the beginning of 2017, he ended KC's season by forcing an Eric Fisher holding penalty. And if we get the predicted Steelers-Patriots AFC title game, Harrison's emotional force could be as important as his physical impact.

The once undrafted linebacker is now the Pittsburgh record holder with 80.5 sacks. He predates Ben Roethlisberger in the Steel City and retired as a Steelers legend over three years ago before returning to the team. Just two weeks ago, he was entering Heinz Field shirtless as a powerful tribute to injured backer Ryan Shazier. Seeing him run out of the tunnel with Brady and Bill Belichick—how can that not be a factor for the Steelers' younger players (to say nothing of the social media videos destined to come of Harrison lifting an impossible amount of weight in a Belichick-style Pats hoodie)? But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

For now, Harrison's move from Pittsburgh to Patriot Place simply elevates the rivalry between the top two teams in our most recent power rankings. Big Ben said he "was shocked" by Harrison's release. Linebacker Vince Williamstweeted (then deleted), "Clearly it must be a cold day in Hell wow," after Harrison signed with New England. The rest of Steeler Nation moped.

The Patriots have taken a lot from Pittsburgh this century. Now they've nabbed a chunk of the team's soul, too.

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NOW ON THE MMQB: Our Power Rankings Poll heading into Week 17 ... Peter King's special Tuesday Morning Quarterback​ ... a playoff scenario rundown ... and more.

LATER TODAY: Peter King's mailbag ... Albert Breer's mock draft notes ... Jenny Vrentas expounds on a cool locker room scene ... and more. Stay tuned.

WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Andrew Brandt's Top 10 off-the-field stories of 2017 ... Reasons for optimism for DeShone Kizer and Mitch Trubisky ... and more.

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1. Bruce Arians is reportedly leaving football after this season. Except he says he isn't. After Pro Football Weekly's story, Arians opened his Tuesday press conference by saying, "If you want to ask me about this fake news story that has come up—I’m quoting the President now—nothing has changed. I don’t know where all that s*** came from." Later, Arians added, "I’ll sit down with my wife and son and daughter and we’ll talk about it and see if we can make a decision sometime between Monday and February.” Before this season, Arians wrote about his cancer surgery and claimed, "I’m ready for at least one more season of NFL football—maybe more.” We'll know soon enough.

2. How many fan complaints equal one upset owner when it comes to changing the league's catch and replay rules? Tuesday, Bills owner Terry Pegula expressed his disappointment with the decision to overturn Kelvin Benjamin's touchdown Sunday. "They obviously weren't looking at the same television the rest of the country was looking at, were they?" Pegula said during a radio interview. "Everybody I talked to . . . they're all baffled by that call, which just wasn't consistent with what replay is." Buffalo coach Sean McDermott made a similar statement. "I'm still at a loss," he said. "I have spoken with the league on it and I remain at a loss."

3. Here's a heartwarmer: David Quessenberry, after a three-year struggle with cancer, returned to play against the Steelers on Christmas Day. "It was everything I dreamed of while I was going through my treatments," Quessenberry said.

4.Stephen Weatherly: robotics ace, Bitcoin expert, capable with nine instruments, and defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings. Get to know one of the NFL's most interesting men.


5. Derek Carr has gone from potential MVP to the butt of a parody letter in a Raiders bar. After a 48.1 rating Monday and a game-changing interception late, he's staring at the lowest point of his career heading into Week 17. Of course, it's also possible that he simply hasn't fully healed from the fracture in his back he suffered in October.

6. Sunday, Ron Rivera organized a post-game rallying cry for embattled Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. "I can only speak for what he has been to me and the players,” Rivera said Tuesday. “And that’s why I did it.”​

7. Also asked to explain himself, Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas said his overheard request to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to "come get me" has been misinterpreted. "When I said ‘come get me’ I didn't literally mean come get me now," he said Tuesday. "I’m still in the prime of my career. I still want to be here [in Seattle]. But when Seattle kicks me to the curb, please, the Cowboys, come get me.”​ Still, Pete Carroll called the moment "unusual."

8. I think it's fair to call the Jamaal Charles experiment with the Broncos a failure all around.

9. Next week, after what could be his final game in D.C., Kirk Cousinswill meet with Washington fans. It could be the type of strange ending this odd saga deserves.

10. Clevelanders won't be the only ones rooting for their Browns to avoid 0-16 next week. Many Lions fans will stand alongside them.

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The painful story of a blocked kick and $500,000 Adam Vinatieri won't be getting.

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