Ray Anderson, the National Football League's executive vice president for football operations, said today the league is not targeting the Steelers, in particular linebacker James Harrison, for illegal hits -- a claim made by several Steelers players and even Baltimore Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Anderson also stressed that players who continue to violate the league's policy on illegal tackles -- whether for helmet-to-helmet hits or flagrant fouls -- will be suspended.
Harrison has been fined $125,000 for four separate violations of the league's policy this season -- the latest $25,000 for a helmet-leading hit on Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The fines are determined by Anderson and assistant director of operations Merton Hanks, a former NFL player, not Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"I would say that's misguided and, frankly, completely untrue," Anderson said when asked if the Steelers are being targeted. "Every team and every player, hopefully, will have the confidence that, if they play within the rules, we won't have this problem."
When told that Harrison said he will continue to play the same way and won't adjust his tackling technique, Anderson said, "We won't respond to any particular player and certainly we won't respond to players who may have appeal cases pending.
"But what we will say is, we expect every player to play within the rules. They're very clear so players and coaches should know the rules, particularly Rule 12 and its variations. If they aren't able to play within the rules, ultimately, they will be sitting and watching games like you and me and watching games from outside the stadiums of their NFL team.
"At the end of day, if they are not willing to make the adjustment, we're not backing off this because we know how important it is for all concerned."
Wide receiver Hines Ward on Wednesday called the NFL "hypocrites," questioning why a league that says it is concerned about player safety wants to increase the regular-season schedule from 16 to 18 games.
"The league is a joke," Ward said. "They don't care about the safety of players. For them to even try to make it 18 games lets you know they don't care."
Asked about Ward's charge, Anderson said, "I have no comment to Hines Ward."