7:52 AM PT -- 5/15 -- James Harrison is now walking back the comments he made regarding an alleged envelope he received from Mike Tomlin after a ferocious hit back in 2010.
Harrison adamantly denies Tomlin paid him bounty money for the hit -- but he still doesn't really explain what was in the envelope and why he received in the first place.
"Wow y'all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!?" Harrison said on Instagram on Friday. "Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY!"
Harrison says at the time of the incident, the NFL had implemented massive fines for big hits because "the league had to start pretending like they cared about player safety."
Harrison says "media people" -- and fans -- "were sending money to me and the team to cover the fine."
So, is Harrison suggesting the envelope contained money to pay the fine? If so, that's still a huge problem.
Harrison concluded, "AGAIN AT NO TIME did Mike T. EVER suggest anybody hurt anybody or that they'd be rewarded for anything like that. GTFOH with that BS!!!"
5:58 AM PT -- 5/15 -- Harrison's agent is now strongly denying James' insinuation ... saying straight-up a payment from Tomlin for the brutal Massaquoi hit "never happened."
"I would have known that," Bill Parise told the Tribune-Review hours after Harrison made the claim. "It didn’t happen.”
Meanwhile, New Orleans coach Sean Payton -- who was famously banned 1 YEAR in 2012 for his alleged role in a Saints bounty scheme -- wants to see the NFL investigate the Steelers ... though he's skeptical the league will take it seriously.
"I would be shocked,” Payton said of a possible league probe into the allegations on 105.7 The Fan on Thursday. “That’ll be something that’s tucked away under the rug at Park Avenue."
"They’ll look into it briefly. Listen, don’t get me started on that. I lost $6 million in salary, and honestly it was something that I’ll never truly get over because I know how it was handled and how it was run and the reasons behind it. That’s just the truth."
For his part, Harrison has yet to publicly clarify what he meant by his comments.
4:42 PM PT -- Steelers president Art Rooney II released a statement on Harrison's claim ... saying, "I am very certain nothing like this ever happened," according to ProFootballTalk.
"I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this."
James Harrison says Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin "handed me an envelope" after one of the most vicious hits of his career ... calling it the "G-est thing" Tomlin ever did.
The hit Harrison is referring to went down against the Cleveland Browns in 2010 ... when he led with his helmet and laid out a defenseless Mohamed Massaquoi.
The hit resulted in a $75,000 fine and Massaquoi left the game with a concussion ... and now, Harrison is sharing his side of the infamous incident.
"Listen, on everything I love, on my daddy’s grave, I hit that man with about 50% of what I had and I just hit him because I wanted him to let loose of the ball," Harrison told Barstool Sports' "Going Deep" podcast.
"If I had knew they was gonna fine me $75,000, I would have tried to kill him."
What Harrison said next could be problematic for Tomlin, who is still the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"And, I ain’t gonna lie to you, when that happened, right? the G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that."
"I ain’t gonna say what, but he handed me an envelope after that."
Remember -- the New Orleans Saints got in HUGE trouble with Bountygate from 2009-2011 ... when players were paid bonuses for injuring opponents.
The insinuation is there was money in the envelope -- but Harrison doesn't confirm or deny that.
He also doesn't say if Tomlin had paid him to carry out the hit ... or if Tomlin was offering to pay the coming NFL fine.
One thing is clear ... the comment is raising A LOT of eyebrows.
We've reached out to the NFL for comment ... so far, no word back.