NFL and Player Safety : Are the Pittsburgh Steelers Targets?

Terri BeyCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2010

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 28:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers rises after hitting Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills during their game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  Harrison was flagged for roughing the passer during the play. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)
Karl Walter/Getty Images

As most NFL fans are aware by now, the NFL has been cracking down on "illegal hits."  The reason this is happening is because Ray Anderson, the NFL's Executive Vice President of Football Operations got all upset because in a few games, there were some really nasty hits, and in my opinion, overreacted.

The one hit that got a lot of attention was the helmet to helmet hit on Baltimore Tight End Todd Heap by Patriot Defensive Back Brandon Merriweather. Anderson and the NFL got all hysterical about that hit in particular and threatened suspensions and fines and such. The NFL also focused on a couple of hits done by Steeler Linebacker James Harrison against a couple of Browns players, one of which Harrison was not flagged for.

Well, the league definitely cried wolf on the Merriweather hit, so to speak, because all Merriweather got was a $50,000 fine. However, the real issue here is James Harrison.

Harrison was fined $75,000 because he is a repeat offender. I can live with that. I admit, I root for the Steelers, and if he did wrong, then he should be punished. However, what has been happening with Harrison lately has been very disturbing. 

James Harrison has become a marked man, and so have the Steelers.

I am stating that I am FOR player safety. I am very happy that the NFL is taking the initiative and doing something about head injuries and concussions. I am pleased that NFL teams are not allowing players to go back in the game, essentially protecting the players from themselves. Sorry Hines.

However, what I am not happy with is the watering down of the game. I just think the referees are throwing the flags for every little hit.  I also think that the Steelers, in particular, are targets.

For example, in the Monday Night game against the Cincinnati Bengals this year, Casey Hampton was called for "roughing the passer" on QB Carson Palmer. If you look at the replay, he was hardly touching Palmer.  That was a 15 yard penalty.

Later on in the same game, the referees call a very late pass interference call on the Steelers. The next play, Bengals score a touchdown.  Fortunately, the Steelers won this game. The next day or so, the NFL calls and said the referees made the wrong call in both instances.

The Steelers were nearly screwed out of that game.

We have this issue with Harrison getting fined. His latest fine for roughing the passer against Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is just ridiculous. The referee is clearly seen reaching for the flag BEFORE Harrison even HITS Fitzpatrick.

I mean, that is wrong.

In the same game, a couple of the Bills defenders are clearly seen mauling Ben after the play is dead, and Ben hurt his knee and ankle, but where was the flag? There was no flag at all. 

Media outlets such as ESPN, about how this is a quarterback driven league and how the quarterback must be protected as he is the face of the franchise. Well, that only applies to certain ones such as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, etc...

It evidently does not apply to Ben Roethlisberger. 

James Harrison also got fined this year for hitting Brees late. Well, Ben gets hit late all the time in almost every game, and the defender that hit him NEVER gets nailed for it. Why?  

Why in a 2006 game against the Falcons when Ben suffered a concussion from a helmet to helmet hit was there no flag thrown, but in that same week, Peyton Manning got clipped from behind by a Redskins defender, and not only was a flag thrown, but the player got FINED?

There is protection for MANNING, but NONE for Ben? 

It seems to me that the Steelers are being portrayed as a dirty team just because players such as Hines Ward, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are questioning the NFL's tactics on these hits. They are not saying they want dirty hits. The guys are just questioning how the NFL can just decide on a whim what is "dirty" and what is not.

James Harrison is the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. Harrison has always played like this. Now all of a sudden, he is a dirty player just because some executive got his panties in a bunch over a weekend of some nasty hits and is evidently out to get him?

My point is if you are going to have rules to protect players, then protect all of them, not just a select few.