Harrison out to hurt, not injure opponents

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You're damn right Steelers linebacker James Harrison tried to hurt Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs Sunday.

Mohamed Massaquoi, too.

Just as he'll try to hurt quarterback Chad Henne and running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams when the Steelers play the Dolphins in Miami Sunday.

"I don't want to see anyone injured," Harrison said, "but I'm not opposed to hurting anyone."

Say what?

"There's a difference," Harrison said. "When you're injured, you can't play. But when you're hurt, you can shake it off and come back. I try to hurt people."

I decided right then that made perfect sense.

I mean, really, would you argue with Harrison?

On a day when he knocked out the two Browns and generally was "a beast" -- teammate Hines Ward's words -- in the Steelers' 28-10 win?

"You get hit by James, you feel it. It's over," Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. "There's no bouncing back up after he hits you. He's not playing around out there. It's no joke to him."

It's hard to say Cribbs felt anything on the play he was injured ... excuse me, hurt. He appeared to be knocked out cold. It happened early in the second quarter when Cribbs lined up at quarterback in the Browns' wildcat formation. He rolled to his right, looked to pass, then decided to run. Just as he started to cut back across the field, he was drilled by Harrison, who caught him helmet-to-helmet in a violent collision. No penalty was called because Cribbs was a fair target as a ball carrier.

Many of the Cleveland players huddled around Cribbs and prayed as he received attention from the Browns' medical staff. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger also was there, a concerned observer.

"You hate to see anyone down like that, but then you realize he just went to sleep for a little bit and he came out of it and he's going to be OK," Harrison said.

Apparently, no one sent Harrison the memo from the NFL office expressing more concern than ever about concussions and the long-term effects they might have on players, including brain disease and dementia.

"That's football," Harrison said, shrugging.

Another realization hit Harrison when Cribbs walked slowly to the Browns' sideline, then to their locker room, done for the afternoon.

"That ends the wildcat, It's out the window," Harrison said.

The Browns had hoped to use Cribbs -- their best offensive player -- often in that role to take pressure off rookie quarterback Colt McCoy, who was making his first NFL start. Cribbs had hurt the Steelers in that formation when the Browns beat the Steelers, 13-6, in December. He ran eight times for 87 yards.

Of course, the Browns also hoped McCoy would be able to throw to Massaquoi, their best wide receiver. That, too, went out the window late in the second quarter when Harrison put a shoulder-to-helmet hit on Massaquoi to force an incompletion on a pass over the middle. Like Cribbs, Massaquoi was done for the day.

"Legal hits, not fineable hits," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

Said Harrison of the Massaquoi play, "I was in the right place at the right time. It was zone coverage, and he ran through my zone ...

"That was a good, clean, legal hit. I put my head across the bow. To be honest, I laid off him a little bit. I could have put a lot more into him."

Harrison's hits didn't just sabotage the Browns' best strategical planning. They juiced the Steelers.

"They geek up everybody," Harrison said.

Quieted the Browns, too.

"[Running back] Peyton Hillis had just made a big run [on a 23-yard screen pass] before the hit on Cribbs," Clark said. "Their sideline was dogging [Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor] for trying to tackle him high. Then, James comes right back and puts that hit on Cribbs. You shut up real fast when you see something like that. It was like James said, 'See, we hit, too.' "

One more thing ...

"People are going to focus on the hit on Cribbs, but James came a long way from the backside to make that play," Clark said. "That's the way we play. Run to the ball and be physical. James is the leader of that. He's just extremely strong and extremely explosive."

The hits were just two parts of Harrison's big day. He finished with 10 solo tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, three quarterback hurries, one pass defense and the forced fumble by Cribbs.

"It felt like I was getting a little more action today," Harrison said, "but it didn't feel like it was my best game."

Maybe this performance wasn't as good as Harrison's legendary game against the Baltimore Ravens in 2007 when he had eight solo tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. But it still was pretty special.

"James is always ready to deliver for his teammates," Tomlin said. "That's why they have so much respect for him."

How is that Ward described Harrison again?

A beast, indeed.

Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. rcook@post-gazette.com


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