By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — It’s a good bet that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens won’t get together, hold hands and sing Kumbaya before their 8:20 kickoff Sunday night, but according to Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs actually believes that NFL referees are looking at James Harrison more closely than any other player in the league.
Suggs, you’ll recall, wore a T-shirt to training camp recently that read: “You Bet Your Sweet Ass I Hate The Steelers.” He also called for a bounty to be put on Hines Ward. So, this brotherly love, so to speak, is unprecedented among players from the Ravens and Steelers.
“I don’t feel sorry for anybody,” Suggs said Wednesday, “but … I think in the referee world they kind of red-flagged (Harrison). I think they’re treating some quarterbacks different than others. Some quarterbacks get the call right away. Some quarterbacks, they don’t care. Carson Palmer got hit in his knee in 2005 by you guys. It was an accidental hit. But there was no rule made.
“Then, Tom Brady got hit in 2008. All of a sudden, there’s a rule and possible suspensions and excessive fines. It’s just getting ridiculous. You got this guy, No. 92 over there. I think he’s kind of red-flagged. Referees are kind of looking for him to see if he breathes on the quarterback wrong. He might get a flag. I think there’s definitely some injustice, and I think that?s where the game is.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh wouldn’t comment on Suggs’ quotes and even went so far as to say that he didn’t believe the referees consciously target any player, Harrison in particular, but more importantly “that’s just the way it?s got to be, and I don?t know how much better you can do than to try your best.”
The Steelers, of course, and Harrison were angered by the recent fine.
“They’re taking absurd amounts of money from me for plays that I consider to be clean and legal hits,” Harrison reiterated. “(So), I’m just going to go through the process and see what happens. I’m not going to change the way I play. The way I play, there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m not playing dirty. I’m not doing anything that’s outside the lines.
“I’m sure if you asked 10 guys in the league, I’m sure that eight or nine of them would say, ‘He’s not a dirty player. He’s a hard player. He’s just getting a bad rep right now.’ I know why I was fined for this hit. (They said) I led with my head, but I don’t feel like I did. …. The Ravens, of all people, are saying that I possibly might be getting picked on or they’re red-flagging me.
“And that’s our most hated rivals,” Harrison added. “Go ask 10 guys and see how many say, ‘Maybe he’s being picked on.’ (So), we’ve talked to a few guys (in the NFL Players’ Union), but that’s neither here nor there because they’re not the ones who are fining me. … There’s nothing malicious or illegal with the way that I’m playing or the way that I’m tackling guys.”
Steelers photographer Mike Fabus got a great shot this past Sunday of Buffalo’s No. 77, offensive lineman Demetrius Bell, holding Harrison’s jersey. Of course, there were no holding penalties on the Bills.
“They can’t see me getting held, but they’ll call other things on me,” Harrison opined. “It’s amazing. … It’s like the wild, wild west. They’re making up the rules as they go and deciding what they want to fine and what they don’t want to fine, who they want to fine and who they don’t want to fine. They twisted our quarterback up after the whistle was blown and everything else.
“If that was (Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady, they probably would have suspended that guy. You’re saying that you’re all about player safety, but they’re not going to compensate guys for playing extra games or maybe just add 1-2 more people to the roster. They’re saying one thing and doing something else. It’s just smoke and mirrors.
“(But) I regret making those statements after the (Cleveland) game,” Harrison added. “I think that’s the whole reason I was fined $75,000, because of what I said after the game and not for the actual hit. … The way it is right now, it seems like I might be red-flagged, so anything that I do that could be close to the border will be called.”
Steelers safety Ryan Clark found Suggs’ comments to be rather humorous.
“I do believe that as defensive players, we feel targeted in this situation,” Clark said. “(But) I wouldn’t say that it has united us. (Suggs) hasn’t called us, and we’re not going to go out to eat when we get to Baltimore or anything like that. But it is tough, because those guys all play the same position. … After the game, I said that we know the NFL is going to protect quarterbacks.
“And I feel like they’re going to protect all of them, except for ours. You watch some of the things that happen to Ben, the way that he’s bent up after plays. Like the one play in Buffalo. But James makes football plays, before the whistle plays, and they’re being called. Could you imagine if he did it to a quarterback? So, it’s getting tough on James, and I don’t know what to tell him.”
Roethlisberger also weighed in on Suggs and his own situation.
“Terrell Suggs is a great football player, (and) he seems to know some things about the game of football,” Roethlisberger said when told that Suggs believed Peyton Manning and Brady are treated differently. Then, he discussed the play in Buffalo.
“I knew I was hit under there and going down,” Roethlisberger said. “I was laying on the ground and was trying to get my knee out, because that’s what was starting to hurt. I was wondering why the scuffling was going on. My linemen were jumping on guys and (saw) that two guys were hitting me.
“I don’t think they need to pile on when I’m down, but I guess the referees call it the way they see it. I hurt my knee on that play. … In defense of my teammate, I saw the referee reach for the flag before the hit was even coming. It’s unfortunate for (Harrison), and we really feel bad for him.”