Steelers Notebook: Polamalu criticizes current state of NFL

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Troy Polamalu looks at the recent fines to Hines Ward for unnecessary roughness, the penalties to players who hit quarterbacks and wonders what those running the NFL are turning the sport into.

They're taking the physical nature of the game out of the game, Polamalu said.

"It loses so much of its essence, and it really becomes like a pansy game," the Steelers' Pro Bowl strong safety said.

"I think regarding the evolution of football, it's becoming more and more flag football, two-hand touch. We've really lost the essence of what real American football is about. I think it's probably all about money. They're not really concerned about safety."

Polamalu said it's tough to know when you can even hit a quarterback anymore.

"You have to figure out how to tackle people a new way," he said. "There's such a fine line. I guess, hitting quarterbacks late and whether they're going to slide or come forward -- it's too much.

"If you look at any sport, maybe besides mixed martial arts, it's a real gladiator sport. We go out there at a high speed, killing each other."

Players from previous generations would not make it today, Polamalu said, not because of talent but because they were too physical.

"You see guys like Dick Butkus and those types of really raw, old-school, pound-it-out football players; they could never survive in a game like this today.

"The Ronnie Lotts, the Jack Tatums -- these guys who really went after people. They were that way because the game was physical. They couldn't survive in this type of game. They wouldn't have enough money because they'd be paying fines, and then they'd be suspended for a year after they did it two games in a row."

Roughness, shmuffness!

Ward said he will not change his style of play despite the $15,000 in fines he has received for "unnecessary roughness" in the past two games.

Coach Mike Tomlin told him "to keep doing what you're doing."

"I'm not hurting the team with penalties. I'm just going out there and playing aggressively. I'm just waiting to get a clarification on what specific plays they called me on the unnecessary roughness."

Another receiver, Cincinnati's Chad Johnson, was astonished to learn that Ward had drawn such penalties the past two games.

"Unnecessary roughness? That doesn't make any sense. I am serious; that doesn't make any sense at all. Hines has always been probably the best darned blocker in the NFL. I don't understand where you get unnecessary roughness from. That is not even a rule."

Big Ben high on Ohio

Ben Roethlisberger can't wait to play in his native Ohio again. He's 10-0 in the state as a pro with five victories each against Cincinnati and Cleveland.

"I love to go back there and play, just because growing up there were so many Browns and Bengals fans. It feels good winning there."

Take our tickets, please

Cincinnati has been a favorite road trip for Steelers fans for years and it might just have gotten better for some of them, and at bargain basement prices. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, StubHub had 3,000 tickets to Sunday's game against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium available for sale. Some, with a face value of $64, were going for $24.

"There's nothing better in the third quarter when all you see is our fans and hear our fans. It's fun," Roethlisberger said.

Kick returner added

The Steelers signed a kick returner -- to their practice squad. Jayson Foster, from Georgia Southern, replaces defensive tackle Jordan Reffett. Foster is 5 feet 7, 175 pounds. He went undrafted this year and signed with the Miami Dolphins, who released him before the season.

While the Steelers' special teams play has improved in general this season, their return game has not. They average 3.8 yards on punt returns and 19.6 yards on kickoff returns. Foster switched between playing quarterback and wide receiver in college. He was the Southern Conference offensive player of the year in 2007 and was second in the nation with 167.6 yards average rushing per game.

Injury update

Offensive tackle Marvel Smith did not practice again because of back spasms. Neither did nose tackle Casey Hampton, who will try to practice today.



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