Pittsburgh. Steelers. Football.
Those were three major words when I was growing up. Sure, the team was pretty much a joke when I discovered the sport of football, but they were the home team and I was determined to support them no matter what. Then an amazing thing began. Chuck Noll showed up. Then came Mean Joe Greene. Terry Bradshaw. Franco Harris. Jack Ham. Jack Lambert. Swan and Stallworth. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The buffoons grew into champions that not only won championships, but inspired all of western Pennsylvania during a time that practically screamed for inspiration. Charlie Daniels even equated being a proud American with being a Pittsburgh Steeler fan in one of his big hits from the era. Times have certainly changed. After a rough patch in the 80’s and early 90’s, the team again rose to the heights of the NFL to be a perennial contender. Things are a bit confusing for us old-timers though. The old Steelers were synonymous with tough, hard-nosed defensive football. Two current players also typify that spirit, but now instead of admiration, we, the fan, are being told that the style of play is wrong and should be punished. That’s right, both Ryan Clark and James Harrison are being portrayed as being almost criminal by playing the same style of football that propelled many of the former Steelers into the coveted Pro Football Hall of Fame. Both of these gentlemen have been punished for football hits (albeit ferocious ones) that not so long ago would have been the subject of highlight films that everyone would “ooh” and “ahh” over. The current suspension of James Harrison for one game is perhaps one of the most ludicrous penalties I’ve ever seen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for preventing injuries to any players, especially when dealing with concussions, but the NFL blew this one and the sports media is brainwashing the public as a result. Sure, I’m a little partial, but I should also mention I’m a big fan of Colt McCoy and hope the young man leads the Browns back to respectability (just not against Pittsburgh). I’ve watched the play over and over and this was no malicious hit by any means. Due to the angle of Harrison’s pursuit, his head naturally slid up McCoy’s body on impact. McCoy ducked into the hit out of reflex. Helmets collided as a result. Due to the new rules, definitely a penalty, even though it wasn’t the dirty, pre-meditated play the rule was designed for. Throw in Harrison’s past penalties for ferocious hits (note the term ferocious, not dirty) and I’d even believe the fine, but suspension? Get real, NFL. If McCoy were the stronger of the two players, it would have been him giving Harrison the concussion, not the other way around. In Harrison’s own words as posted on Twitter, “17 games, 1000+ snaps, 100+ tackles, 12+ sacks and 2 forces fumbles since my last incident and I get a suspension for a football play!” I’m in agreement with his assessment. Maybe this will backfire on the league. I’ve heard commentators say that Harrison is the best linebacker in the league and it would be hard to argue that fact. Let’s say the week off gives him extra time to heal his football wounds and grow stronger. Let’s say this extra time off is an advantage heading down the stretch. Here’s one Steeler fan hoping Mr. Harrison gets the opportunity to showcase his skills the whole way to the Super Bowl.