Steelers Notebook: Harrison calls for Seymour to be suspended
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has his jaw examined on the sideline after Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour punched him in the second quarter of Sunday's game at Heinz Field.
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In a game in which the Steelers set a club record for most penalty yards in one contest, it was a flagrant penalty on Oakland that will draw the attention from the NFL offices this week.
In the second quarter, Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour sucker-punched Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after Roethlisberger threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who has seen his share of flags this season and has been fined on numerous occasions by the NFL, believes the league should suspend Seymour for what he did to Roethlisberger.
"I don't see why not," Harrison said. "They're trying to suspend guys for hits when that's within the whistles, some hits that guys can't even stop from doing. It's an adjustment that a receiver makes to what you are about to do to him, and you end up hitting helmet to helmet. You're talking about suspending a guy for that? You tell me what the next step is for a guy who blatantly, outside the play, it's already thrown, and a guy is going to celebrate with his teammates and you punch him in the face."
Seymour claimed he reacted that way because Roethlisberger approached him from behind.
"Well, first of all, I thought I let my teammates down," Seymour told the Contra Costa Times of California. "You never want to do anything to hurt the team. That's first and foremost. It was a lot of ongoing, and you're out there to protect yourself. It's still no excuse. I'm not sure exactly what happened on the play. I just turned around, and he just ran up on me quick. It was just natural reaction."
Seymour would not say whether Roethlisberger said something to provoke the punch.
"You heard a lot of stuff going on," Seymour said. "I never complain about what happens in the trenches. You've never heard me complain about anything that goes on. Like I said, my main focus is on the team and not doing anything to hurt the team."
When he was asked again whether Roethlisberger said anything, Seymour responded: "You have to watch it on the [TV]. I'm not sure why he ran up on me."
Roethlisberger said after the game the only thing he said was: "Let's get ready for the extra point."
The Steelers were penalized 14 times for 163 yards, eclipsing the previous record for penalty yardage that was set in 1989 against Cincinnati.
The Steelers had penalties on nine different players, including two roughing the quarterback calls. The second one against Harrison negated an interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Ike Taylor.
"It's something we can't have," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "It's going to end up costing us. We have to know that the refs are calling and be aware of that and work on it in practice, or we're going to lose games off penalties."
Jeff Reed isn't the only one complaining about Heinz Field.
According to a report on the NFL Network Sunday, the Steelers' past two opponents, the Raiders and Patriots, complained to the league about the Heinz Field playing surface.
"The Patriots complained about field conditions last week and Raiders coaches have already registered a complaint in the pre-game here today at Heinz Field, according to a league source,'' the network reported. "The portion of the field between the hash marks between the 30s is pocked with soft spots and areas where the sod easily comes out."
Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly complained about the surface after the game.
"The field is absolutely atrocious," Kelly said. "They have to do something about that. They got big divots like they're playing golf out there. One time my shoe came off because I stepped in a hole."
Harrison wasn't complaining about the surface, but he did explain why he stayed down on the field and had to be attended to by trainers late in the game.
"The middle of that field is nothing [but] a sand pit, so when I hit the ground it all went into my eyes," he said.
The game Sunday was the last NFL game on that particular grass. The grass will be removed and new sod laid down starting Sunday.
Heinz Field will play host to the West Virginia-Pitt game Friday and four WPIAL championship games Saturday before the re-sodding takes place.
Three starters on the offensive line had to leave the game with injuries, but it did not prevent the offense from moving the ball up and down the field against the Oakland defense.
Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey left the game in the second half with a knee injury. He was replaced by Doug Legursky.
Left guard Chris Kemoeatu and left tackle Jonathan Scott also exited the game, but each later returned. Trai Essex came off the bench to play guard and tackle at various times. He was a late scratch from the starting lineup and was replaced at right guard by Ramon Foster.
"I have to give a lot of credit to the guys who come in because they play really well," receiver Mike Wallace said.
Injuries along the offensive line have been a season-long issue for the Steelers, who already have lost tackle Max Starks for the season with a neck injury. The good news Sunday was that none of the injuries are considered serious. Pouncey reported some swelling in his knee, but said he was going to play next week against Buffalo.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not hold back when asked about the reason for benching Essex.
"It was based solely on performance," Tomlin said. "Trai was below the line. We felt like Ramon gave us a better shot. We like his tenacity. We'll assess his work and proceed from there."
Roethlisberger rushed for a career-high 55 yards against the Raiders, including a 16-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Roethlisberger's previous career high in rushing yards was 49 against Cleveland in 2007.
"I was impressed with his running," Wallace said. "I never knew he had it in him."
Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski returned to his hometown and led a late comeback victory at Heinz Field last season when he threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns, including the winner with nine seconds remaining in a 27-24 victory. Gradkowski came on in relief of an ineffective Jason Campbell Sunday, but there was no magic for this Seton La-Salle graduate this time. Gradkowski completed his first five passes on his first drive of the game, late in the third quarter, but the march ended when he was intercepted by Troy Polamalu.
"You're always thinking positive things," Gradkowski said. "I was thinking that we scored 21 points in the fourth quarter last year, and we can do it again. We were moving the ball well. You always have to account for No. 43. Sometimes, you can't see him out there. He made some good plays. Against a good football team like that, you can't turn the ball over."
• When Rashard Mendenhall scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter it was his eighth rushing touchdown of the season, a career high. Mendenhall scored seven touchdowns last season. The club record for touchdowns in a season is held by Franco Harris, who had 14 in 1976.
• Mendenhall fumbled for the first time this season late in the fourth quarter.
• Wallace caught a touchdown for the third consecutive game. It was the first time a Steelers player has had touchdown receptions in three consecutive games since Hines Ward did it in 2005.
First Published November 22, 2010 12:00 am