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James Harrison suspended

December 13, 2011 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

The Steelers are fighting for playoff position in the final 3 games of the season, and that fight just got a bit tougher.  The NFL has suspended linebacker James Harrison for 1 game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Colt McCoy.

The Steelers face the San Francisco 49ers in their next game.  It’s probably the toughest game left on the Steelers schedule, so they could definitely use Harrison.  But I guess that point is now moot.

Harrison’s agent Bill Parise has already appealed the suspension.

“We will ask for an expedited hearing because we’re dealing with a suspension,” Parise said.

Ummmmm, good luck with that.

Frankly, I don’t think he has any chance of winning his appeal.  The tape clearly shows that Harrison struck a head-to-head blow.  It can be debated whether the hit was intentional, but because it’s Harrison, the league is not likely to back down.

Harrison was fined a total of six times during the 2009 and 2010 seasons for four illegal hits against quarterbacks and twice for unnecessary roughness. Because of that history, the NFL probably felt that a suspension might send a louder message than the fines did.

Even Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t support Harrison on this one.

“He hit him, he hit him illegally, he has to suffer the consequences,” Tomlin said.

Because he’ll be suspended for the game, Harrison won’t get paid for it.  So effectively, the league did fine him.

This obviously makes the next game a little tougher than we thought it would be.  However, I still think the Steelers have a good chance of beating the 49ers and improving their record to 11-3.

Go Steelers!!!

The James Harrison ruling

October 21, 2010 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

I waited to write anything about the NFL’s decision to fine James Harrison.   The reason I waited was because I didn’t think that the league’s most recent actions made any sense.

The problem is that the NFL had a knee jerk reaction to an extraordinarily complex problem.  This past Sunday, there were a number of hard hits.  Some were illegal (the Brandon Merriweather hit), and some weren’t (the James Harrison hit and the Dunta Robinson hit).

The league fined James Harrison $75,000 for his hit, while Brandon Merriweather and Dunta Robinson were each fined $50,000 for theirs.

The league says that they issued the fines and are going to begin issuing suspensions in an effort to insure player safety.  That sounds nice, but it’s total B.S.

What the NFL did was analogous to the government authorizing stimulus packages in an effort to fix the financial crisis in America.  Sure, fines and suspensions might help.  But like stimulus packages, they are a simplistic answer to a complex problem.

I don’t think that there is anyone that wouldn’t agree that player safety is important.  Fans, players, and the NFL will all agree on that basic point.  However, how to go about promoting player safety is a much more complex problem.

Football is a violent game.  Yet it is partially the violence that makes the game appealing.  Is there anyone who believes that the NFL would be the multi-billion dollar industry that it is if they played flag football or “touch” football?  Of course not.  Fans like the violence.  They like the big hits.  They like the bone-crushing tackles.  That may say something bad about our society, but it is a fact nonetheless.

Throughout the history of the league, the NFL itself has even promoted the big hits.  That’s what we’re all used to seeing on the evening news and on SportsCenter.  Arm tackles don’t make the highlight reel, big hits do.  The NFL even sells DVD’s with titles like “The NFL’s Greatest Hits”.  I can assure you that there are no arm tackles on those videos.

So does the NFL really want to eliminate one of the most exciting parts of it’s sport?  Personally, I don’t think that would be smart.

The NFL will argue that they’re only trying to eliminate helmet-to-helmet blows.  A noble gesture, but one that is very impractical in actual practice.  You see, NFL action happens too fast.  When a wide receiver sees a hit coming, he lowers his head to protect himself.  Running backs do the same thing.  It is a reflex.  And it happens in a fraction of a second.  Yet, that reflex can change a legal hit into a helmet-to-helmet blow.  The defensive player didn’t intend for it to happen that way.  But it did nonetheless.

Any player will tell you that you can’t avoid those types of hits.  They’re just going to happen.  Sure, there are times when players launch themselves like missiles.  But those are obvious, and easy to police.  It’s the more ambiguous situations that I’m concerned about.  Like James Harrison’s hits during the Cleveland game.

The NFL says that they are not changing the rules, but they’re merely going to begin enforcing rules that already exist.  Okay, well then while they’re doing it, why don’t they enforce the rule that is supposed to keep offensive linemen from holding James Harrison on every play? 

I’m all for player safety.  And I’m all for enforcing rules.  What I’m not for is unfair, arbitrary decisions in the middle of the season.  The referee didn’t even throw a flag on Harrison’s hit.  Yet he was fined $75,000.

If the league wants to make the game safer, then go over the rules during the off-season.  Do what they did with the “Hines Ward rule”.  Send videos to every team and tell them what is allowed and what is not allowed.  Then train the officials to call it that way.  I don’t think I’ve heard of a single team or player complaining about that new rule.  Not even Hines Ward.

But this new ruling is much too arbitrary.  I don’t get it.  I just don’t think that the league has been clear on what constitutes an illegal hit.  Helmet to helmet contact can’t be the only indicator.  As I mentioned earlier, that is often accidental.

And what about when an offensive player makes helmet to helmet contact with a potential tackler?  Why is the league not fining players for doing that?  It’s helmet to helmet contact.  Yet the NFL seems to be differentiating the two types.

Isn’t it just as dangerous for a 264 lb. running back like Brandon Jacobs to lower his helmet and steamroll a 195 lb. cornerback like DeAngelo Hall?  Yet that type of play happens every single week in the NFL.

In my opinion, the NFL should do absolutely nothing right now.  That’s right, nothing.  They should wait until the end of the season, and make the rule changes for next season.  That would allow them to get input from players, coaches, medical experts, and referees.  Then they would have a much higher probability of getting the answer right.

I hope that the NFL is looking for the RIGHT answer, and not just AN answer.  Right now, it looks like they’ve settled on the latter rather than the former.

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Harrison named defensive player of the month

October 29, 2009 By: Admin Category: Players

The Steelers defense has not played up to the standard that they set last year.  They have allowed opponents to make 4th quarter comebacks, and have not been the dominant unit that they were last year.

Much of the problems has been due to injury.  Lawrence Timmons started the season with an ankle injury.  Then Troy Polamalu went down with a knee injury.  And finally, Aaron Smith was lost for the season due to a shoulder injury.

But lost in the rash of injuries and defensive letdowns has been the extremely consistent play of Steelers linebacker James Harrison.

Because of his consistency, Harrison has been named AFC defensive player of the month for the month of October.

Steelers LB James Harrison

Steelers LB James Harrison

Harrison is second in the NFL in sacks with 8.  He trails only the surprising Elvis Dumervil of the Denver Broncos.  He also leads the NFL in forced fumbles, a category he also led the NFL in last season.

With 8 sacks already, Harrison is on a pace to break the Steelers single season sack record.  The record is 16 sacks, and was set by Harrison in 2008.

Frankly, I was surprised to hear of Harrison’s award.  Harrison has not seemed to be the dominant force that we grew accustomed to watching last year.  While he has been very consistent, Harrison has not had any of the completely dominant games that we saw from him so often last year.

He is still being held on almost every play, and referees continue to disregard the obvious holds.

With that in mind, I strongly believe that Harrison’s best play is still ahead of him.  That should be a welcome thought to Steelers fans, and a nightmare for the rest of the NFL.


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Steelers get another too close win

October 11, 2009 By: Admin Category: Post-Game Reports

October 10, 2009
By Donald Starver

I know that I should be happy that the Steelers defeated the Detroit Lions  28-20 today, yet I feel strangely unfulfilled. 

Many fans have already written to remind me that a win is a win, and that I should be satisfied.  But I’m not satisfied.  Perhaps I’m ungrateful.  Perhaps I’m too demanding.  But I’m not satisfied at all.

I am happy that the Steelers are finally above .500.  I really am.  But I’m not happy with how they did it.  After all, these were the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers facing one of the worst teams in the NFL.  The Lions went 0-16 last season.  So could you blame me for desiring a blowout?  Reigning champs should beat reigning chumps…..Soundly.

So why did the Lions score first?   And why did the Lions run for more yards than the Steelers?  Why did the Lions also pass for more yards than the Steelers?  Why did the Lions have more first downs than the Steelers?  Why did the Lions have a greater time of possession than the Steelers?  And why did the Lions outscore the Steelers in the 4th quarter?

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.  I really don’t.  But these are questions that have to be asked.

To be fair, there were some bright spots in the Steelers’ win.  James Harrison accumulated 3 sacks and a forced fumble.  William Gay and LaMarr Woodley each racked up 1.5 sacks.  Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 77 yards on 15 carries.  Heath Miller scored another touchdown.  Hines Ward and Mike Wallace also caught TD passes.  And of course Big Ben passed for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns.

But even with all of those positives, there were still things that left me baffled.  For example, why did the Steelers seem to stop going to Rashard Mendenhall in the 2nd half?  Mendenhall started off on fire and rushed for 65 yards in the 1st half.  But offensive coordinator Bruce Arians seemed to forget about him as Mendenhall only got 6 carries and 12 yards in the entire 2nd half.  Note to Bruce Arians:  When a running back is averaging over 5 yards per carry, GIVE HIM THE BALL!!!!!! 

RB Rashard Mendenhall

RB Rashard Mendenhall

Also, why did the Steelers throw the ball to Limas Sweed on their very first offensive series?  As might be expected, Sweed dropped an easy pass.  Fortunately, the Steelers learned from their mistake and didn’t throw to Sweed again for the rest of the game.  Frankly, I was under the impression that Mike Tomlin had Sweed chained up in the basement of the Steelers’ practice facility.  Who let him out?

Perhaps most disappointing was the Steelers’ defense.  The ” D” made Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper look like Peyton Manning.  Culpepper shreaded our defense.  He also rushed for 44 yards.  Culpepper, who was only playing due to an injury to starter Matthew Stafford, did all of that without star wide receiver Calvin Johnson who left early in the game with an injury.

So perhaps you now understand why this game left me feeling a little unfulfilled.  Sure, it’s a win.  But I’m not happy about it.  Nope, I’m not happy at all.


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Steelers vs. Chargers: Key match-ups

October 04, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

Note:  If you haven’t already read our Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Diego Chargers Preview, please click here.

This week the San Diego Chargers invade Heinz Field to battle the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Each week we look at the key match-ups that may impact the outcome of Sunday’s game.  Here are this week’s key match-ups.

C Justin Hartwig vs. NT Ogemdi Nwagbuo
Ordinarily teams facing the Chargers have to deal with NT Jamal Williams.  Unfortunately, the 350 pound Williams is on  injured reserve, so instead the Steelers will have to face his replacement Ogemdi Nwagbuo.  Nwagbuo is 50 pounds lighter than Williams, and spent last season on the Chargers’ practice squad.  I’m sure that Steelers center Justin Hartwig is very happy to be facing the really fat replacement rather than the extraordinarily fat injured starter.  Advantage:  Steelers.

S Tyrone Carter vs. TE Antonio Gates
Even when Troy Polamalu is healthy, Chargers TE Antonio Gates is a difficult match-up.  Gates is tall (6’4″), and has great hands.  With Polamalu out with an injury, the responsibility of stopping Gates falls to Tyrone Carter.  Carter gives up 8 inches and 65 pounds to the much bigger Gates.  Needless to say, that’s not a good thing.  Sorry Tyrone, but it’s going to be a very loooooooong day for you.  Advantage:  Chargers

CB Ike Taylor vs. WR Vincent Jackson
Jackson is tall (6’5″) and fast, but Taylor is also tall (6’2″) and faster.  It will take a lot to shut down QB Philip Rivers’ favorite target, but Ike Taylor should be up to the challenge.  This should be one of the most exciting match-ups of the game.  Advantage:  Neither.

LBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley vs. Philip Rivers
Chargers QB Philip leads the NFL in passing.  He is a brash young quarterback who can pick teams apart if given time.  The only way to stop Rivers is to apply pressure and force him to hurry his passes.  That challenge will fall to linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.  So far this season, Harrison has only 1 sack and Woodley has none.  That will have to change, or the Steelers could be in for a long day. Advantage:  Neither 

LaMarr Woodley

LaMarr Woodley

Rashard Mendenhall vs. his playbook
Last week Mendenhall was benched by coach Mike Tomlin because he did not know his playbook.  One week later, Willie Parker is likely to be out due to turf toe, and Mendenhall may get the start.  Is it realistic to believe that Mendenhall could successfully learn the plays in one week?  After all, this is Mendenhall’s second season with the Steelers.  If he couldn’t learn the plays during the course of 2 training camps and a full season, why should we believe that he can learn them in one week?  I remember watching Mendenhall run into Ben Roethlisberger during a game earlier this season.  Hopefully, we won’t see any more mental gaffes from Mendy.  Advantage: Playbook.


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