James Harrison does not like rules.
It's no secret that the NFL's new rules on player 'safety' are aimed at the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they aren't the only team in the division that relies on an intimidating, hard-hitting defense.
Since the 1999-2000 season, the Ravens and the Steelers havd—with a few exceptions—fielded two of the best and most violent defenses in the NFL. Featuring iconic, fearsome hitters over the years like Joey Porter, the enigmatic Ray Lewis, James Harrison and Bart Scott, these defenses have produced bone-jarring collisions, broken bones, and more than a few concussions.
Having drafted young, hungry beasts like Lamar Woodley and Haloti Ngata, both defenses show little sign of losing their reputation.
Cincinnati's improved defense shouldn't be overlooked either; its a solid unit coached-up by good-guy Mike Zimmerman and features talented young hitters like Jonathan Fanene and Keith Rivers. Despite being just a terrible team, Cleveland's defense kept many of the games closer than they should have been last season.
James Harrison—the consequential poster boy for the kind of hits targeted by the new rules—has been vocal critic of how these rules will impact his play and the game itself. This begs the question—who is going to bend more, players who make their living with violent hits, or the Commissioner.
This is unknown territory, so it's anybody's guess how the rules will be applied. How will the teams, the players, and the fans react if one of their best defensive players is suspended at a crucial point in the season? There is no division in the NFL that has more at stake on this issue than the AFC North.