The Steelers will be far from full strength for their showdown against the Ravens in Baltimore because of old and new injuries, and they're holding their breath on something else: a possible suspension of linebacker James Harrison for yet another roughing-the-passer call against him.
Harrison was penalized for roughing Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for what was described by referee John Parry as "leading with his helmet." It's his second roughing penalty in two weeks after Harrison sacked Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell, although he drew no fine from the league on that one.
The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker already has $100,000 for three fines, two of them for hits on quarterbacks. He has the largest fine of the season, $75,000. The league threatened suspensions when it announced its crackdown on what it terms illegal hits but has not suspended a player yet. With his history, Harrison would be an easy target if the league office wanted to make an example of someone.
"There's nothing wrong about the play," Harrison insisted Sunday. "I just felt like it's getting to a point where the refs feel like if they don't make the call they may be in trouble. ... I think it was a hit just like last week where they called the flag. I hit, wrapped, made sure I didn't land with my body weight on him, and they seemed to think differently."
Harrison said he does not deserve to be punished for his latest penalty, but "we'll see what happens as the week progresses ... I've been frustrated since they started making the calls. I guess that's just going to be part of the game now."
Coach Mike Tomlin declined to talk about Harrison's hit and the penalty called against him. Harrison said his coach told him after the penalty "to keep playing."
Harrison registered his 10th sack Sunday, becoming the first Steelers player to hit double figures three straight seasons.
"It's not going to change the way I play," Harrison said of the penalties.
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