The league wasted no time in dishing out a punishment to James Harrison for his helmet to helmet hit on the Browns Colt McCoy on Thursday night. No Steelers fan should really be surprised by this, nor should we really care. Honestly, who does the NFL think they are hurting with this one game suspension?
James Harrison sat out four weeks while he mended from surgery on his orbital bone. During that stretch, LaMarr Woodley stepped up in a big way. He dished out 7.5 sacks, 1 INT and 13 tackles. Jason Worlids stepped up and played solidly, and Lawrence Timmons was superb in moving from inside to outside numerous times in that stretch. The Steelers won all four games – and three of them were some of their most convincing wins of the season (save for that win in Jax that was too close for comfort).
The pressure has been placed on the Steelers defense now that Big Ben is hobbling around on that high ankle sprain. Who knows what the next 6 days will bring and how much mobility he will have. He certainly won’t be his play extending self. The offense may or may not be as productive as it has been this season – so all eyes will be on the defense to keep the Steelers in the game against the Niners.
Should we be worried? I don’t think so. The Niners passing offense is near the bottom of the league, so I think the defense can commit more guys in the box to stop Frank Gore. The guy is a beast of a back and has been troublesome for many teams this season. He already has breached 1,000 yards. Some comforting news is that two teams that have been successful in suppressing him are two AFC North teams – the Ravens (39 yards) and the Bengals (42 yards). The Steelers have struggled to stop the run this season, but they’ve improved to 6th in the league at stopping the run. Harrison has been a part of that success and improvement, but I don’t think his absence will keep the Steelers defense from being effective and dominant.
So what does the NFL think it is accomplishing by this one game suspension? Harrison doesn’t get paid – big deal. The Steelers will be without him for a game – certainly something the team can overcome. This won’t change the way he plays unless the coaching staff decides to dish out their own playing time penalties for these kinds of hits. No way Tomlin and Co. do that – especially since the Steelers have been the largest and loudest voice against the new rules that have been put in place for this season. If the NFL wants really wants to hurt the player or the team, they should make the team add additional suspension time and the suspension should exponentially go up per offense. They should also make him watch self help videos on how to properly tackle for hours and hours – now THAT’S a punishment.
Fret not Steelers Nation. The game against the Niners will be a back and forth battle no matter who is playing OLB. It would be great if Harrison were to play, and even better if we knew for sure that Woodley would be 100% to take his place in Harrison’s absence. But good teams can win games in certain situations. GREAT teams can win games no matter what is thrown their way. Perhaps we’ll see how great the Steelers really are this Monday.