On the Steelers: Ravens' Suggs supports Harrison
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs on Steelers linebacker James Harrison: "I think in the referee world they kind of red-flagged him."
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Even the Steelers' enemies are coming to the defense of linebacker James Harrison. And none profess their hate for the Steelers more than Harrison's latest defender, Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Suggs even wore a T-shirt to Baltimore's training camp in 2009 that proclaimed, "You Bet Your Sweet A . . I Hate The Steelers." Yet on Wednesday, he charged that the NFL has wrongly targeted Harrison for his play that has drawn $125,000 in fines this season.
"You got this guy, number 92 over there, I think he's kind of red-flagged," Suggs said. "Referees are kind of looking for him to see if he breathes on the quarterback wrong. He might get a flag. I think there is definitely some injustice and I think that's where the game has went.
"I don't feel sorry for anybody. I do know they are looking at him more closely than they are looking at anybody else in the league. I think in the referee world they kind of red-flagged him."
Harrison reacted to his latest fine with resignation, saying he will appeal this one too. The league fined him $25,000 for a hit Sunday on Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"There's nothing malicious or illegal the way I'm playing, the way I'm tackling guys, so I'm going to continue to play the game and let the chips fall where they may," Harrison said. "It's not like I'm hitting these guys or doing anything beyond the scope of the rules. Anything I do that may be even close to the border is going to be called."
Harrison said the fact rivals such as Suggs are defending him shows the unfairness of the actions against him by the NFL.
"You got a guy like that saying there may be a red flag on me and he's supposed to be our most hated enemies, rivals, you tell me? I would think if it were reversed and they were picking on them, I would say the same thing."
Ryan Clark, the team's NFL Players Association representative after Charlie Batch was appointed to the board of the NFLPA, said he called the union's regional rep to complain about what he said the NFL is doing to Harrison.
"I'm definitely standing behind him as a rep," Clark said. "We definitely need some answers, just clarity of what they want. Every week it's a different explanation by the referees to the reason for the hit -- full body, lying on the guy or hitting the guy with the crown of your helmet or putting your facemask in his back. If I'm running down the back of a guy, which way do I turn to make sure my facemask doesn't hit him?
"So I think it needs to be cleared and I think the NFLPA can be instrumental in getting us that clarity."
Defensive captain James Farrior also spoke out about what he and his teammates believe are inconsistencies in NFL rulings, particularly against Harrison.
On Sunday, referee John Parry threw the flag on Harrison and announced it was for leading with the crown -- or top -- of his helmet. After replays clearly showed the top of Harrison's helmet never touched Fitzpatrick, the NFL said it fined the linebacker because "he made helmet contact to the chest of the Buffalo quarterback, who was in a defenseless position."
"I feel bad for him," Farrior said of Harrison. "All he does is go out and do his job and play as hard as he can every Sunday and he's getting in trouble for it now. You can fight and do a whole lot of stuff but you better not hit that quarterback hard."
Farrior was not surprised that Suggs came to Harrison's defense.
"It's affecting everybody who plays defense. I don't blame him. He's probably not the only guy who feels that way."
Ben Roethlisberger said he noticed something that others inside the organization have brought up privately. He charged that Parry, the referee, went for his flag before Harrison even hit the quarterback.
"I saw the ref reach for the flag before it was even coming. It's unfortunate for him," Roethlisberger said of Harrison's penalty and fine. "We really feel bad for him."
Roethlisberger strapped on a fortified right shoe and went through nearly a full practice with his teammates, although the Steelers officially listed him as going through a "limited" practice.
"I only missed probably 10-15 snaps," said Roethlisberger, who has a sprained right foot. "We did some different kind of looks to adapt and make it so we could still do stuff, so I think it went fairly well."
Roethlisberger's foot was injured in Sunday's overtime victory in Buffalo. He also came out of that game with a sore knee after two Bills players roughed him up after sacking him.
"It hurts because it's my plant foot, my right foot. When I hit the ground, I want to get the ball out."
He vowed that he will play Sunday night in Baltimore.
"I'll find a way to make it happen."
The fines, penalties and what constitutes legal hits have overshadowed the approach of one of the best matchups of the season Sunday night.
The winner not only will have a one-game lead in the AFC North Division but also a significant tiebreaker. It's not a stretch to say that the winner between the Steelers and Ravens will emerge as the division winner and have the overwhelming best chance of the two to reach the Super Bowl. At the moment, it looks as if the loser would head to San Diego to play as a wild-card team.
A win by the Ravens would give them two over the Steelers, and they could win the division by splitting their final four games while the Steelers go 3-1 -- or the Ravens could assure themselves the division title by winning three of their remaining four.
A win by the Steelers would give them the top tiebreaker, a better record within the division. That would remain so as long as the Steelers take care of their final two division games, at home Dec. 12 against Cincinnati and Jan. 2 at Cleveland.
First Published December 2, 2010 12:00 am