Last year the Steelers locker room was more fired up than the Pacific ring of fire any time a fine was doled out by the NFL for ‘illegal hits.’ This year that tone has continued, yet slightly subdued. Now, at a time when players should be spitting more venom than a cobra, the locker room is quiet and only whispered ‘No comments’ fill the air.
Why the change in tone? Head coach Mike Tomlin told his players to keep quiet over their feelings about the NFL’s recent punishment to James Harrison. In fact, according to safety Troy Polamalu, Tomlin told players to react with, ‘No comment.’ And like the good little soldiers they are, they are indeed staying quiet – save for Ike Taylor who at least used other punishments as a litmus to ‘compare’ how unfair Harrison’s suspension really is.
“Man, they’re tripping. I don’t know what it is. [Harrison's] getting it handed to him in the NFL way … He didn’t stomp on nobody, he didn’t punch nobody’s private area.”
The stomp and punch refer to Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh for stomping a Green Bay Packer on Thanksgiving and Richard Seymour for punching a Miami Dolphins’ lineman at the beginning of December. Both are repeat offenders for post whistle activities, neither have been suspended (Correction: Suh was suspended for his kick). Harrison has been naughty during the whistle, and his actions have been football related. Suh and Seymour’s actions are things you find out on the street or in a bar brawl (minus the splintering chairs) – with the full intent on hurting or injure someone. Harrison’s hits are intended to be football plays with the intent to intimidate and make players think twice of running to his side of the field. Hard hits are part of the game. High hits have always been part of the game. But I think we can all agree that Harrison’s hits have never been with the intent on giving a guy a concussion or result in prolonged damage. Yet, Harrison is painted that way by the media who villainize him like his actions are equal to Suh’s or Seymour’s or your local knifer looking to score some crack on the street.
It’s bull shit and Tomlin should be allowing his players to be as vocal as they want to be. By him keeping his players silent, it’s like he himself is agreeing with the league’s decision on Harrison. Tomlin met with the Commish and other league officials earlier this season about illegal hits coming from his team. I don’t know what was said by either side. But it looks like Tomlin is ready to lie down and take it from the league. Maybe they said, ‘Hey if you still want everyone in this league to think of you as a classy solid coach and you don’t want the media to tear you down, then you should just keep your and your team’s mouths shut.’ Too conspiratorial? Not enough?
Either way, it’s crap. And, I’m really P.O. that Tomlin is just letting a punishment like this happen with nothing being said. Complacency for this kind of stuff will only enable and embolden the league to keep dishing out penalties that are too severe within the context of the offense. It will send a trickle down effect that will cause players to second guess their technique and how they play and how they execute – remember Larry Foote on Arian Foster back in Week 4?
The players being bound and gagged by their own coach is a chilling situation. I’m glad Taylor said at least something. But it’s just not enough.