Most Steeler fans would qualify as “James Harrison apologists.” We’re included in that. We don’t think Harrison is going out onto football fields hoping to give someone a concussion or break somebody’s neck. But Roger Goodell (along with most of the NFL) perceives him as a dirty player.
And Roger Goodell’s perception has earned James Harrison a one-game suspension. It’s the first suspension for a player making a “football play” (i.e. not intentionally stomping on or injuring an opponent) since 1986.
This marks the first time Goodell has suspended someone for on-field behavior, with Ndamukong Suh being suspended for stomping on a fallen lineman, and James Harrison’s latest headshot will make him the first player to be suspended for something that happens between the whistles.
We all saw during Thursday’s game, Harrison’s big hit on Colt McCoy’s face. McCoy had slipped out of the pocket and looked like he was going to run for the first down, before flipping the ball off to his running back. Harrison was already coming in for the hit. And he connected. Now, my first reaction was probably the same as yours. “McCoy was a runner! He looked like he was going to run with the ball! You can hit him!”
Like we said, we don’t think James Harrison goes out with the intention to injure other players. But he also doesn’t tackle responsibly. He should know by now that officials are going to get him for even the slightest infraction. If you’re James Harrison, you have got to change the way you tackle. You simply can’t go high on a player. You can’t go for that big, dramatic hit. You have to learn to wrap up and tackle. The same thing goes for Ryan Clark.
James Farrior can do it. Troy Polamalu can do it. Brett Keisel can do it. Harrison needs to learn to do it. He hasn’t yet, and he hasn’t shown that he will. When Matt Cooke was suspended through the end of last hockey season, he watched film on himself and others to see what he was doing wrong. He changed his game. He stopped elbowing guys in the head. Harrison needs to do that. He needs to take a look at the tackles he makes and he needs to understand why they are dangerous.
That’s what this suspension is about. It isn’t a suspension because of the hit he put on Colt McCoy. It’s a suspension for the hits he’s put on everyone. On McCoy, on Brees, on Brady, on everyone. Harrison has made a lot of hits to head areas and he hasn’t shown any willingness to stop. As much as we want to defend the man, it’s time that he stand up and do something so that we don’t have to.