On the Steelers: Tomlin says Harrison might have to change


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Linebacker James Harrison threatened to retire when the NFL socked him with a $75,000 fine for what the league determined was an illegal hit in October.

That was six weeks and $50,000 in fines ago for Harrison.

After receiving his latest fine of $25,000 for roughing Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick Sunday in Buffalo, it brought Harrison's total docked from his pay this season to $125,000 on four fines. The others:

• $5,000 for roughing Tennessee quarterback Vince Young.

• $75,000 for hitting Cleveland wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi high.

• $20,000 for a hit with his helmet to the back of New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.

His appeal of the latter two fines was denied Monday by the NFL.

"James Harrison was fined $25,000 for roughing the passer, specifically he made helmet contact to the chest of the Buffalo quarterback, who was in a defenseless position at the time the contact was made" a league spokesman explained in an e-mail to the Post-Gazette.

Harrison might have to change his tackling technique.

"Obviously he does because the league doesn't agree with him," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

That is the first time Tomlin has acknowledged that Harrison must play differently as the fines have come hot and heavy this season from the league. Harrison was asked Sunday what Tomlin told him after the penalty. "He just told me to keep playing," Harrison said.

The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker has consistently defended his hits, as he did the one in Buffalo that drew a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer.

"I didn't expect to get a flag," Harrison said right after the game. "I guess the referees are getting to the point to where they're afraid not to make a call if it's borderline. That's textbook, it doesn't get any better than that. Hit, wrap and I made sure to put my hands out so I didn't land on him, put my body weight on him or anything, but they still made the call."

The previous week, Harrison was penalized for roughing Oakland's Jason Campbell on a sack when the referee explained that the linebacker landed with his full body weight on the quarterback. The league, however, did not fine Harrison, which on the face of it confirmed the linebacker's claims he did nothing wrong.

Harrison, who could not be reached Tuesday, said Sunday he did not expect a fine this time, either.

"It's the same exact thing as last week if you go back and look at the play from the Raiders. It was the same exact hit, I hit [Fitzpatrick] the same way as I did the quarterback from Oakland and I got the same flag but I didn't get a fine. I guess looking at it through the competition committee they felt like it wasn't fineable. I'm expecting the same thing on this ... I think it was a hit just like last week where they called the flag. I hit, wrapped, made sure I didn't land with my body weight on him, and they seemed to think differently. We'll see what happens as the week progresses."

Roughing up Big Ben

No flag was tossed by the officials Sunday in Buffalo after two Bills roughed up quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after sacking him, and Tomlin said he did not want to get into that topic either.

"What I said to the league is between me and the league," Tomlin said at his news conference Tuesday. "I don't have a response to that."

Replays clearly showed that Buffalo defensive end Marcus Stroud and linebacker Arthur Moats continued to work over Roethlisberger after he was on the ground.

Roethlisberger was in a walking boot Tuesday on his right foot, which is sprained. Roethlisberger had an X-ray of his foot in Buffalo but returned and did not miss an offensive play.

"He might be limited somewhat" in practice today, Tomlin said. "I'm going to be optimistic and hopeful that he'll be a full participant, but there's a chance that he couldn't be."

Byron Leftwich would play if Roethlisberger could not, Tomlin said.

Another flag day

The penalties have added up the past two games and Tomlin said there was good news and bad to go with them.

"More importantly than the penalties themselves, I liked the way that we collectively responded to adversity. There were many instances in the game we were getting penalties and -- boom! -- we were overcoming them immediately, whether it was the next play or converting a third down.

"I understand that that's not always going to be the case, and that's why I said moving forward this week, playing a team like Baltimore, we'd better be very cautious about putting ourselves into those circumstances. But largely throughout that game, I thought we were able to overcome the penalties that we sustained during the course of drives, at least offensively."

The Steelers set a team record with 163 yards Nov. 21 on 14 penalties against Oakland. They had 107 yards on 10 penalties in Buffalo, at least those that were accepted. Guard Chris Kemoeatu had four holding penalties, three of them accepted by the Bills.

The Steelers have been penalized 653 yards on 72 calls this season compared to their opponents' 511 yards on 58 calls. The Steelers had 769 yards on 85 penalties last season.

Injury update

Tomlin sounded optimistic on the rest of his team's laundry list of injuries.

Troy Polamalu (Achilles strain) will not practice much again for the third week in a row. Nick Eason (knee MCL sprain), Bryant McFadden (hamstring) and Antonio Brown (knee) all look as if they can play Sunday. Matt Spaeth will have another concussion test this morning to determine where he stands. Brett Keisel (hamstring/calf) will participate fully in practice although he did so last week as well and was scratched for the fifth time in the past six games.


For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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