Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark wrote on his Twitter account the other day: "It's not just us. It's the whole Steeler Nation against the world. I think we have them outnumbered."
Clark suggests that it's the Steelers versus everyone else. A lot of people are beginning to agree with that assumption.
The 2010 season has been a year to forget off the field for the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger's sexual assault accusation in Georgia and Santonio Holmes getting in trouble once again; leading to the Steelers trading him away for a fifth-round pick. Then there was the sudden releasing of kicker Jeff Reed.
Despite all of that, the Steelers are 7-3 and primed for a possible playoff run.
However, it seems that Roger Goodell and the NFL are picking on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been fined on multiple occasions this year and has a whopping total of $100,000 worth of fines for the season.
Harrison was also flagged for a very questionable roughing the passer call this past Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Harrison has been very vocal about his unhappiness with the league and Goodell. After he was fined $75,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit against the Cleveland Browns, Harrison even contemplated retirement.
Some of Harrison's teammates are saying that the referees are targeting Harrison and the Steelers for flags. Clark said that "the refs are looking to throw flags before the play is even over." James Farrior said that Harrison's roughing the passer penalty was "one of the worst calls he had ever seen."
The explanation wasn't much better. These are referee Tony Corrente's words: "with full body weight on top of him." That call wiped out a touchdown return by Steelers defensive back Ike Taylor.
On the day the Steelers were penalized for over 160 yards yet still went on to defeat the Raiders 35-3. Of those penalties, six were personal foul calls, including one on Clark that was absolutely ridiculous. This is a result of the league trying to crack down on helmet-to-helmet hits and "devastating hits," along with cracking down on "illegal" hits on the quarterback.
The problem is the hit that Clark put on Jacoby Ford wasn't illegal, at least as far as the rules of football.
Now I understand why the league wants to protect the quarterbacks the most. The quarterback is the most important position in football and arguably the most important position in sports. Any time Tom Brady or Peyton Manning gets touched, you almost always see a flag on the play.
That brings me to an incident that occurred during the Steelers-Raiders game. To me, the most outrageous thing that happened this week was the fine given to Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Seymour was fined $25,000 for punching Ben Roethlisberger in the head. Seymour is a repeat offender who was fined for the same thing last year when he punched Eagles running back Jerome Harrison.
That fine is unacceptable to me. Seymour should have been given at least a $75,000 fine and should have faced at least a one-game suspension. The NFL has come out and said that they considered the act a "fight," and the max fine for a fight is $25,000. If you've seen the highlight, you would know that it wasn't a fight. It was a total cheap shot, a sucker punch, and it has no place in the game.
What if it had been Brady or Manning that would have gotten punched? Would the result be any different? Logic says yes. What if would have been Harrison or Clark punching a quarterback in the face? Would the punishment been any different?
I know a lot of people won't buy into conspiracy theories, but this is all starting to build up. Remember this: Despite the accusations, Roethlisberger is still the only player to have been suspended without facing any actual criminal charges.
So is the NFL picking on the Steelers? Is Roger Goodell using the Steelers as an example? It would make sense being that the Steelers are arguably the most popular team in the league and have a very solid following. It would be smart for Goodell to use them as an example to get his rules established.
Is the NFL picking on the Steelers? As LaMarr Woodley said, "You be the judge."
This article also appears on the Pittsburgh sports blog 412sportstalk.