Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will go to work to prevent the pile of undisciplined penalties his team has been committing, but there's apparently one player he won't have to worry about.
Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison became the most notorious player in the league for piling up fines and penalties for personal fouls to the extent the NFL suspended him for one game last season.
Sunday, Harrison returned to play for the first time in 2012, and Tomlin praised him for his work that included a team-high three quarterback pressures. But on his best shot at sacking Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, Harrison pulled up and let him throw. He explained why, that all those penalties and fines came to roost right then and there.
"I was nervous," Harrison said of that second-quarter play, which resulted in a deep incomplete pass. "I thought he might duck his head, I might hit him. I can't take [a] fine. I was worried more about a fine.
"It's Michael Vick; he goes shake and bake. You have to sit there and wait almost just to see what he's going to do. Because if he at the last second drops his head and ducks down and we make helmet-to-helmet contact, it's the fault of the defender."
Dear NFL commissioner Roger Goodell: James Harrison got the memo. Many of his teammates apparently did not. Two of them drew personal fouls on a Philadelphia touchdown drive.
Ryan Clark was called for roughing when he slammed helmet-to-helmet into tight end Brent Celek, who was in the process of being tackled by two Steelers. Although no one heard a whistle, the officials dropped the flag on Clark.
Five plays later, Ryan Mundy rocketed high into wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and another flag dropped. Mundy was penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit even though replays showed it was shoulder-to-shoulder.
Both players thought they were unfairly penalized. Tomlin did not want to talk about either. He is a spokesman for the UPMC-Steelers campaign to educate football players dubbed "Don't Hit The Head, Don't Use The Head."
"We're not going to dispute calls," Tomlin said Monday. "Those [officials] are doing the best they can, particularly in light of some of the instances that we have in today's NFL regarding player safety. Just know that we're trying our very best to play within the rules and it's disappointing for us when we don't.
"We have a desire to play within the rules. We also have a desire to increase our chances of winning and when you're picking up 30 yards in penalties in one drive, that's going to give people an opportunity to score. Obviously, we're trying to rectify those things. I'm less concerned about judgments and interpretations and so forth and I'm more concerned about playing in the manner that the flags stay in the pocket."
There were plenty of those that left the pocket Sunday. The Steelers were charged with nine penalties for 106 yards, which ballooned their total to 37 penalties in four games. Their 346 penalty yards outgain their 331 rushing yards. They are tied for fourth in the NFL for most penalties and tied for fifth in yards.
"What needs to disappear and it didn't disappear [Sunday] are some of the presnap penalties, illegal formations and false starts," Tomlin said Monday. "Those are self-inflicted wounds. We won't tolerate that. We cannot tolerate that. It's my job to get them fixed. We will work on it this week.
"Penalties hurt you in a lot of ways. They put you behind the chains. They eliminate explosion plays and limit field position. They minimize scoring opportunities."
Troy Polamalu and, it appears, LaMarr Woodley will not play Thursday night in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans. Each left the game at the end of the first quarter Sunday with injuries. Polamalu has a severe calf injury and Woodley a mild hamstring injury.
Tomlin said Mundy will replace Polamalu again "but we're also willing to look at Will Allen some as well."
He said James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall came through the game "relatively fine," although Harrison's "knee had a little swelling but nothing major."
The Steelers roster exemption for returning tight end Weslye Saunders expires at 4 p.m. Friday, Tomlin said, and it did not sound as if rookie tight end David Paulson would be the one to go.
"I think the big thing is he's proven that it's not too big for him," Tomlin said. "He's an attention-to-detail guy. He works hard. He's been a productive player for us in special teams and that's not something that we underscore when you're talking about an offensive guy from the tight end position. He's been a multiple special teams phase participant."Steelers
First Published October 9, 2012 4:00 AM