Linebacker's appeal expected to be heard before Monday's game vs. 49ers
December 14, 2011 10:00 AM
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Browns quarterback Colt McCoy is attended to after taking a hit from James Harrison.
By Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Linebacker James Harrison has appealed his one-game suspension from the NFL but this time coach Mike Tomlin did not throw his support behind his player.
Tomlin, in fact, agreed that Harrison's helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy was an illegal one and said his All-Pro linebacker must suffer the consequences.
"Of course, the quarterback was out of the pocket," Tomlin said of the play during Thursday's game at Heinz Field. "He had tucked the ball. He had hurt us running pretty good to that point in the game. But really all of those things are irrelevant. He hit him. He hit him illegally, and he has to suffer the consequences.
"Obviously, it is disappointing, because like I had said earlier, the efforts that he has made. I think that is his first foul on the quarterback since November 2010. But based on the guidelines that the league has supplied, he is a repeat offender. So, we and he, have to suffer the consequences accordingly."
Harrison was not fined by the league, but he will be docked one game's pay for the suspension, or approximately $73,500.
Pending his appeal, Harrison will not play in Monday night's game in San Francisco.
"We will ask for an expedited hearing because we're dealing with a suspension," his agent, Bill Parise said.
An NFL spokesman said the appeal will be heard by Ted Cottrell, a defensive coach in the NFL for 30 years who rules on such appeals based on a rotating basis with another former coach, Art Shell. The two are hired and paid jointly by the league and the NFL Players Association.
The spokesman said a ruling can be expected before the Monday night game. Until there is a ruling on the appeal -- and if the suspension is upheld -- Harrison cannot practice, work out or attend meetings with his teammates.
Tomlin publicly defended safety Ryan Clark last month when he was fined $40,000 for an illegal hit. The coach then was "invited" to New York along with Steelers president Art Rooney by commissioner Roger Goodell to talk about it.
There was no such defense this time.
"It was a good meeting that we had with the commissioner in New York," Tomlin said. "But it is really kind of a separate incident. This is something that has come up since then, and they dealt with it as they see fit and, of course, we are in the process of responding to it in a necessary manner."
After he was fined $75,000 for an illegal hit last season, Harrison threatened to retire but, after missing one day of practice, returned to the team and accepted his punishment, which was later reduced to a $50,000 fine.
Harrison took to Twitter to send a different kind of message after he learned of his suspension Tuesday.
"Thank you to all my fans and supporters," Harrison wrote. "I'm just going to move on from here and get ready for my next game."
Said Tomlin, "He is an emotional guy, and rightfully so. This is a guy who loves to play football, and that is being taken away from him for a week. I am sure there is some discomfort that comes with that."
There have been several helmet-to-helmet hits that resulted in suspensions. In 2008, Eric Smith of New York Jets got a one-game penalty for a hit on Arizona's Anquan Boldin. In 2002, Rodney Harrison of the San Diego Chargers got one game for a hit on Jerry Rice of Oakland.
The NFL has suspended players for egregious actions on the football field, most recently Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was given a two-game suspension for stomping on the arm of Green Bay Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith after a play.
Former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was given a five-game suspension in 2006 for raking his cleats across the head of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurrod while he wasn't wearing a helmet.
"My job right now is to continue to read this and talk to my client and he and I together will make an intelligent decision and we'll move expediently," Parise said.
Asked if the suspension to Harrison might cause his defensive players to play differently, Tomlin said, "I am not ready to paint with that kind of brush at this juncture. I will acknowledge that he is not playing this week, the rest of us are, and we have a job to do."
Fines or lost pay levied against James Harrison since the beginning of 2010:
$5,000: For roughing then-Tennessee QB Vince Young, Sept. 19, 2010.
$75,000• : For launching himself at defenseless WR Mohammed Massaquoi of the Browns, Oct. 17, 2010.
$20,000: For a helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints QB Drew Brees, Oct. 31, 2010.
$25,000: For leading with his helmet on Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Nov. 28, 2010.
$73,500: For a helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns QB Colt McCoy, Dec. 8, 2011.
• - Fine later reduced to $50,000 by the league.
• Game: Steelers (10-3) at San Francisco 49ers (10-3), Candlestick Park.
• When: 8:30 p.m. Monday.
• TV: WTAE & ESPN.
ON THE WEB
• For video highlights of Mike Tomlin's weekly news conference, where the prevailing theme was James Harrison's suspension, go to