PITTSBURGH (AP) — Steelers linebacker James Harrison’s hard hits on the field keep getting matched by the NFL’s hits to his paycheck.
Harrison was fined $20,000 on Thursday for a late hit on Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the third time he has been fined this season for a dangerous tackle.
The penalties total $100,000, including a $75,000 fine for his Oct. 17 helmet hit that left Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi with a concussion.
“The amount of money is becoming an issue,” Harrison said Thursday. “The fines that they issued to me, two of them weren’t even called penalties. I don’t even know what to say anymore.”
The $75,000 fine was issued two weeks ago, when the NFL adopted its tougher stance on hits to the head and neck — a policy that caused Harrison to briefly consider retiring.
Defensive backs Brandon Meriweather of New England and Dunta Robinson of Atlanta were fined $50,000 each that week for what the league termed flagrant violation of safety rules, but Harrison drew a bigger fine because he was a repeat offender.
Harrison also was fined $5,000 for slamming Titans quarterback Vince Young to the turf on Sept. 19. Neither the Massaquoi nor the Young plays drew penalties.
After Harrison slammed into Brees’ back during Pittsburgh’s 20-10 loss Sunday night, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell summoned the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker to New York on Tuesday to talk about the NFL’s stricter enforcement of dangerous hits. Harrison termed the meeting “semi-productive,” and said it included a discussion of the Brees hit.
The league told Harrison he put his facemask into Brees’ back after the quarterback delivered a pass, causing Harrison to draw a roughing the passer penalty.
“If you look at the picture, it looks like my head is off to the left, but maybe they had a different view of it,” Harrison said. “Or maybe they’re just listening to the (TV) commentators.”
Harrison anticipated being fined, but was surprised at the amount. He insisted he was only following the NFL’s tackling guidelines — as portrayed in posters displayed in every NFL locker room — to keep his head up.
“They tell you to keep your head up, see what you hit, but I guess that’s not the case with a defenseless player,” Harrison said. “I don’t know how you tackle someone and don’t use any part of your head, especially if you’re trying to see what you’re hitting. Your facemask is going to touch them.”
The NFL’s toughened stance is very unpopular among the Steelers (5-2), who take pride in being physical and, if necessary, intimidating. Coach Mike Tomlin and Steelers President Art Rooney II both defended Harrison for Massaquoi hit, saying it was permissible under league rules.
Tomlin was visibly displeased last week that NFL vice president Ray Anderson praised Harrison for pulling up and not hitting Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown. Tomlin said it was “insulting” that anyone in the league office suggested the Steelers altered their style of play.
“It would be tough for me to care less about their opinion, to be honest with you,” Tomlin said.
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is especially outspoken about the NFL’s campaign to reduce hits that can cause concussions and other serious injuries, although he has had at least seven concussions during his career.
Polamalu said NFL players are becoming paranoid about what they can and can’t do on the field. He also said Goodell has too much power in deciding fines.
“You’re also taking apart what attracts people to this game,” Polamalu said.