James Harrison: Is the Pittsburgh Steelers LB a Tough Player or Dirty Player?

Michael WallCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2017

James Harrison: Is the Pittsburgh Steelers LB a Tough Player or Dirty Player?

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison has been fined $75,000 by the NFL for his hit on Mohamed Massaquoi.  

    If you have not seen James Harrison's two hits from last Sunday enough, take another look.

    Both of the hits against the Cleveland Browns' players were not penalized during the game.  However, Harrison should have been penalized on his hit on Massaquoi, since he did not give the wide receiver time to defend himself. 

    Over the past few days, there have been several different opinions on how the NFL should penalize players who put "devastating" hits on their opponents. 

    How does one decide whether or not James Harrison is a dirty player?  Look at his history and take into account opinions from current or former players.  

    James Harrison is one of the best defensive players in the NFL.  In order to be that good, you have to be tough and, sometimes, a little dirty. 

James Harrison's History

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    The reason that James Harrison was fined more heavily than players such as Dunta Robinson and Brandon Meriweather, who were fined $50,000, is because Harrison is a repeat offender. 

    On September 19th, Harrison was fined $5,000 for a hit on Vince Young.  He was fined the same amount last year for a late hit on a Cleveland Browns offensive tackle. In 2008, he was fined $20,000 for criticizing a roughing-the-passer penalty. 

    Browns tight end Benjamin Watson was quoted saying that he thinks Harrison should get the max penalty. 

    Maybe that is because Watson does not want to have to worry about James Harrison when running across the middle the next time the Browns play the Steelers.  

    Although Harrison has been fined in the past, his record is not that horrible.  Instead, the NFL is becoming hypocritical when it comes to the "devastating" hits rule.  

Harrison Aims To Hurt, Not Injure

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    After Pittsburgh's victory against the Cleveland Browns, James Harrison was asked about his two hits that made big news.  

    "I don't want to injure anybody.  There's a big difference between being hurt and being injured. You get hurt, you shake it off and come back the next series or the next game. I try to hurt people." 

    "I thought Cribbs was asleep," Harrison said. "A hit like that geeks you up, especially when you find out the guy is not really hurt, he's just sleeping. He's knocked out, but he's going to be OK." 

    Some people may see that first quote and automatically assume that Harrison is a dirty player. 

    The fact is that "hurting" opponents is the goal of every defensive player in the NFL.  These players have been taught since they were little kids to separate the ball from player. 

    If Harrison was a really dirty player, he would be grabbing face masks and constantly hitting players late. 

    Instead, he is simply doing his job and being fined way too much money for it. 

James Harrison's Toughness Inspires His Team

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    James Harrison's play has drawn compliments from his teammates and head coach.   

    "You see a guy like that, knocking guys out like that... he's a man on a mission," Hines Ward said. "He sets the tempo for everybody." 

    "James is always ready to deliver for his teammates," Mike Tomlin said. "That's why they have so much respect for him. He's a good football player, man." 

    Mike Tomlin is in favor of the rules that defend players from helmet-to-helmet hits and realizes how hard it is for defensive players to be cautious on the field. 

    NFL players are running at very high speeds and it is the job of defensive players to react quickly.  There needs to be a sport-science segment done on ESPN that shows the amount of time James Harrison or Dunta Robinson had to react on their respective hits. 

    Defensive players already have to focus on just making the tackle, but now they are expected to worry about whether or not they will be fined. 

    It is the job of James Harrison to hit players as hard as possible.  One can not call him a dirty player for being good at it. 

The NFL Can Stop The Debate

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    It looks like Roger Goodell is in danger of committing a helmet-to-helmet hit on Michelle Obama! 

    In all seriousness, James Harrison's teammate Ryan Clark made a very good point amid the controversy of "devastating" hits in the NFL.   

    Clark originally tweeted about the situation and has defended the actions of James Harrison. 

    “Sometimes, you need to have foresight,” Clark said. “In one sense, we’re saying we want to protect players from head injuries, but then you want us to go out there and do it two more times in the regular season.”

    If the NFL is suddenly so concerned about player safety, why are they pushing for an 18-game schedule? The answer is simple, and that is greed. 

    In order to stop debates about whether or not James Harrison—or anybody—is a dirty player, set and enforce better rules.  Suspending players for one game is a better solution than fining them.

    Also, provide the best equipment possible.  Some players do not wear all the pads that they should or the safest helmets.  The NFL should provide the safest helmets and enforce every player to wear them.  If they do not, they can not play in the game. 

    Instead of taking money out of players' pockets, invest in better research regarding helmet safety. 

    There is a much better solution than fining players like James Harrison $75,000.  If the NFL continues this policy, the league will continue to be criticized by current and former players.