Tag:James Harrison
Posted on: September 30, 2011 7:12 pm
 

James Harrison will not apologize to Cushing

HarrisonPosted by Josh Katzowitz

You might recall that small, little-read magazine article this past offseason in which Steelers linebacker James Harrison made a few disparaging remarks about Roger Goodell (he called him a “crook “and a “devil” and said he “wouldn’t piss to put him out” if Goodell happened to find himself on fire) and ripped his teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall for their Super Bowl performances.

I’m sure you remember that Men’s Journal story actually, but you might not recall that Harrison also ripped Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, saying he was “juiced out of his mind.” In response, Cushing said he would pray for Harrison.

Now that the Steelers are playing the Texans on Sunday, you probably expect Harrison to try to smooth things over with Cushing, the same way he did with his teammates and with Goodell. Obviously, you don’t know Harrison very well.

Harrison said he will not, in fact, apologize to Cushing for his comments in the magazine article.

“I don’t need to,” Harrison said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. “It’s not on my mind.”

To be fair, Cushing was suspended four games in 2010 for a positive steroid test, so Harrison wasn’t necessarily incorrect with his assessment. But maybe he should acknowledge that he was a bit incendiary with his comments. Even if he doesn’t want to apologize for them.

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 7:32 pm
 

Steelers accuse Ravens of playing dirty

Baltimore and Pittsburgh did not get along during their first meeting of the season (Getty).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

When people talk about the dirtiest players in the NFL, Steelers receiver Hines Ward is usually somewhere in the conversation. This might be one reason why. As is Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison -- who can’t seem to go more than a dozen games without some kind of big fine because of an illegal hit.

So, for the Steelers to accuse another team of playing dirty, it’s akin to William Henry Harrison admonishing you for not wearing a coat when it’s cold and rainy outside (what? too soon?).

But dirty is exactly how Pittsburgh believes the Ravens played last Sunday during Baltimore’s four-touchdown embarrassment of the Steelers. And they point to the Ravens offensive linemen as the main culprits.

“You can get hurt from an illegal chop block, but I guess it isn't an illegal chop block if they don't call it," nose tackle Casey Hampton said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

Added nose tackle Chris Hoke: "Some of the things they were doing were questionable rules-wise and dangerous.”

In particular, Hampton pointed at Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda as one who continuously tried to cut-block Hampton. That includes the first play of the game when Hampton said he was blatantly chopped by Yanda, which helped set up a 36-yard run by Ravens running back Ray Rice. In all, Hampton said his legs were targeted on Baltimore’s first four running plays.

"There is really nothing you can do when you are engaged and fighting with a guy and they come chopping at your legs," Hampton said. "If it keeps happening, something is going to have to happen. I can't keep getting chopped up like that when I am engaged."

Yet, the Steelers go on to admit that they have plays in their offensive arsenal in which part of the goal is to cut at an opponent’s legs. "Not to the extent that (the Ravens) did," Pittsburgh defensive end Aaron Smith said.

Obviously, cut-blocking is dangerous and somewhat cowardly. But this is not a new problem. As the Steelers say, every team does it (I remember that the Broncos offensive line for years was accused of dirty play and cut-blocks). That doesn’t make it right, obviously. But you can’t be vigorously against cut-blocking when it’s targeting you and be totally cool with it when you use it against an opponent.

Otherwise, your claims of the other team being dirty don’t make very much sense. And don’t elicit much sympathy.

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Posted on: September 14, 2011 7:27 pm
 

Sapp says Steelers are 'old, slow and itís over'

Posted by Will Brinson

Tonight at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime -- one of the many wonderful properties owned by the mothership -- "Inside the NFL" will, as usual, go inside the world of professional football.

And Warren Sapp, as usual, will have a spin on things that's going to offend a few folks. In this instance, I'll go out on a limb and say the Steelers won't be loving what he has to say, as he basically leaves the Pittsburgh football dynasty for dead.

"The Pittsburgh Steelers. I have three things: old, slow and it’s over," Sapp says. "It’s just that simple. James Harrison told us that he was 70-to-75 percent. It looked more like 40 percent to me if you are looking at the ballgame I was looking at. And Hines Ward, Mercedes Sapp can cover Hines Ward right now. You have to be kidding me ... Mercedes is my 13-year-old daughter. She will cover Hines Ward in a heartbeat.

"And Troy Polamalu, Ed Dixon runs this crossing route. Troy Polamalu is trying to grab him to have a pass interference and he can’t even get close enough to grab him. [It] looked like he was dragging a wagon behind him. Touchdown Baltimore. Pittsburgh Steelers done."

Them, as we say in the South, is fightin' words. And while Sapp has a point about the problems that plauged the Steelers in Week 1 against Baltimore, I'd probably lean more towards Phil Simms' take on things.

"That’s a tremendous over-reaction to Week One," Simms says.

Look, the Steelers looked downright dreadful as Baltimore was beating them up and down the field in every aspect of the game. But lots of teams have looked bad in the first week of the season and then circulated right back around to have good seasons.

This is especially true of teams that turn the ball over seven times in the first week of the season. That's not on Harrison, that's not on Polamalu, and I'm not even sure it's really on Ward.

Most importantly, though, is the fact that just last year, this was an AFC Championship-winning team. They are most certainly older, but they are not dead just yet. In fact, if anything they're a motivated giant that might not be sleeping anymore.

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Posted on: September 14, 2011 10:42 am
Edited on: September 14, 2011 10:43 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Comeback players

M. Stafford, if he stays healthy, could be a candidate for comeback player of the year (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Some had disappointing seasons last year only to find themselves in a brand-new setting this year. Some had worn out their welcome in one city and were rewarded with a new home in a new part of the country. Some were injured, and some just flat-out stunk.

But this is a new season, and it’s never too early to make predictions about the 2011 comeback player of the year, especially since two-time winner Chad Pennington is out for the season and won’t be eligible for his third award until 2012.

You won’t find Albert Haynesworth on this list, because a man who duped one organization out of tens of millions dollars only to find himself holding a golden parachute to the league’s most respected franchise doesn’t need another reward if he potentially plays well (or, unlike in Washington, plays at all). But pretty much everybody else is eligible for a spot on our latest Top Ten with a Twist: Potential Comeback Players of the Year.

10. Kevin Kolb: I originally wasn’t going to put him on this list, because simply put, I’m not entirely sure he’s going to live up to his $63 million ($20 million guaranteed) contract in Arizona. But after his 18 of 27, 309-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Cardinals win against the Panthers (all while getting sucked into the “Cam Newton is awesome” maelstrom), it’s at least a possibility Kolb will play like Arizona believes he can. Kolb supporters point to an impressive two-game stretch he had in 2009 for why he’s worth all that money. I’m more interested in his 130 quarterback rating from Sunday and where he can go from there.

9. Chris Johnson: You might not know this, but last year, Johnson had a disastrous season. When you compare him to 2009, his performance declined by more than 600 yards and he scored three less rushing touchdowns. If that’s not the sign of a guy who has already become much less effective … wait, what’s that? Johnson still rushed for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns last season? Oh, never mind. But here’s the thing with Johnson. He keeps proclaiming that he’s going to rush for 2,000 yards, and while he did it in 2009, he fell woefully short last year. And yes, he won’t make it 2,000 in 2011 either. But he’ll also be better than last year, particularly since he now should be completely happy with the money he’s making.

8. Bob Sanders: We all know Bob Sanders can’t stay healthy. Not after missing 64 of 112 career games with the Colts. And because we’ve barely seen the guy (only nine times in the past three seasons) we always seem to lose sight of the fact that Sanders was once a premier safety threat  mentioned in the same breathe as Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. One good sign for Sanders’ return to respectability: he didn’t have to spend this offseason rehabbing an old injury. But Sanders also is 30 now, where the aches and pains increase rather than diminish. In his first game with San Diego, he accumulated six tackles. But at least he didn’t leave the game with an injury. Which, with Sanders, is pretty good news.

7. Tim Hightower: You’ll recall that Hightower had a bit of a fumbling problem as the No. 2 running back behind Beanie Wells in Arizona -- he had eight lost fumbles combined in the past two seasons -- and though Hightower had good production in place of the injured Wells, the Cardinals decided they’d rather have Wells than Hightower. The Redskins, who were saying goodbye to Clinton Portis, went after him, and their interest was rewarded this week when Hightower looked solid, rushing 25 times for 72 yards and a score. Just as important, though, is his pass protection and his versatility (he’s a pretty good receiver as well). Just as long as he doesn’t fumble, he could be a really good addition for Washington.

6. Steve Smith (Eagles version): We still don’t know how healthy Smith is, but the fact that he was active for the first game -- much to the chagrin of the Giants, I imagine -- is awfully impressive, considering he was coming off microfracture surgery on his knee. He wasn’t targeted by Michael Vick, and he didn’t play all that much. But the fact he was out there at all was pretty ridiculous. Smith probably won’t be healthy enough to produce the stats that would give him a legit shot at the comeback player of the year, but he’s already gone to extraordinary lengths to return this soon, so why not?

Henne5. Steve Smith (Panthers version): Aside from all those Panthers fans who now have hope, receiver Steve Smith has to be one of the biggest Cam Newton fans around. For a guy who wanted out of Carolina as soon as possible (and as receiver, why would he want to try to field passes from Jimmy Clausen?), the infusion of Newton into this offense was the main reason Smith exploded for eight catches, 178 yards and two touchdowns. Considering he only accumulated 46 catches for 554 yards and two (!) scores in 2010, a little Newton in his life apparently has gone a long way.

4. Chad Henne: Despite Miami fans chanting that they wanted Kyle Orton (who now has to hear the chants of “We want Tebow” in Denver) in the preseason, the popular storyline out of south Florida is that Henne finally will turn himself into a legit starting quarterback. Henne was a major storyline in the offseason -- coach Tony Sparano said “we’ll see” about Henne’s chances of starting and receiver Brandon Marshall laid out in detail why Tyler Thigpen was a better player until Henne began to make believers out of his teammates, who voted him offensive captain. It’ll continue to be a storyline as long as Henne plays the way he did against the Patriots (30 of 49 for 416 yards, two touchdowns and a garbage-time interception) in one of the best performances of his pro career.

3. Rex Grossman: Based on the way he played against the Giants on Sunday, I thought about putting Grossman higher on the list. But I just don’t see him as a top-15 quarterback -- this season or any other. Maybe if he got to play against the Giants shell of a defense every week. But until that happens, I don’t see him taking home the hardware. That said, Grossman surprised many people this week -- including, I imagine, John Beck -- and didn’t look like the same quarterback who was Donovan McNabb’s two-minute offense replacement. At least, he played like a legitimate starting quarterback.

2. Bryant McKinnie: Surely, McKinnie would be the first comeback player of the year award winner to have weighed 400 pounds (allegedly) and gotten released from his old team for it (not to mention earning $75,000 for getting down to a trim 372). But McKinnie, as the new left tackle for the Ravens, helped set the tone last Sunday when, on the first play of the first Ravens drive, he dispatched Steelers linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison, allowing Baltimore running back Ray Rice a 36-yard gain. Baltimore ended up beating Pittsburgh by four touchdowns, and don’t think McKinnie wasn’t a big reason for that. If he keeps it up, perhaps McKinnie can make history as the first offensive line ever to win the award.

1. Matthew Stafford: The Lions quarterback scared the daylights out of just about everybody when he hobbled to the sideline with an apparent injury in Detroit’s season-opening win against the Buccaneers. For a guy who’s missed 19 games the past two years with various ailments, that was not a moment for the weak at the heart. But it was only cramps, and during Detroit’s victory, Stafford showed that he still has the talent to be a top-five quarterback. And considering most of the comeback players of the year happen to be quarterbacks, that doesn’t hurt his chances either.

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Posted on: September 6, 2011 4:26 pm
 

Tomlin on PIT-BAL matchup '2 trains on a track'

The Ravens and Steelers meet in Week 1. Apparently, they do not like each other.  (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson


There are eight division matchups in Week 1 but the biggest could be Sunday's Steelers-Ravens get-together. Both teams went 12-4 last season, made the playoffs, and the Steelers got to the Super Bowl before losing to the Packers.

Seven months later, Pittsburgh and Baltimore remain two of the AFC's best teams. And by Sunday night, we should should know the early favorite to win the AFC North (apologies to whoever wins the Bengals-Browns tilt).

But both teams enter the season with issues; the Ravens lack depth at wide receiver, quarterback and the offensive line, and the Steelers are one of the oldest clubs in the league. Over the weekend, we documented the Ravens' potential problems in great detail, but in the days since, head coach John Harbaugh announced that Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams will be the starting cornerbacks. Smith was the team's first-round pick in April; Williams has just one start in his four-year career. And they'll be facing possibly the best group of pass-catchers in the league. As a unit, the Ravens secondary will be tasked with stopping Mike Wallace, who had 10 touchdowns and averaged 21 yards per catch last season, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.

"I think we are younger, more athletic and faster than we've been the last two years," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, according to the Baltimore Sun. "I think this team will be a better team in October and November than they will be in September. Then you may go, 'What are you saying?' I'm saying we've got some young guys that are going to get better…"

The Rivalry

Baltimore also has plenty of veterans, although some are new faces around the locker room. The team signed center Andre Gurode over the weekend in case Matt Birk isn't fully recovered from back spasms, left tackle Bryant McKinnie was inked last month after Oniel Cousins flopped at right tackle (Michael Oher has since been moved to RT and McKinnie is penciled to play LT), and the Ravens traded for Lee Evans after it was clear rookie wideout Torrey Smith wasn't yet ready for the No. 2 job.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked repeatedly about the age of his team during his Tuesday press conference and, slightly agitated, he finally said “You’re making my job easy,” presumably because it would motivate aforementioned old-timers to play harder. That includes linebacker James Harrison, 33, who admits to being less than 100 percent after two offseason back surgeries.

Tomlin, however, remains unconcerned about the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. “I expect James to be James.” We suspect Joe Flacco feels similarly; in the past eight meetings between the two teams, Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have sacked the Ravens quarterback 12 times.



Pittsburgh nose tackle Casey Hampton put the rivalry in perspective: "They talk a whole lot," Hampton said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They don't like us. I think they don't like us a lot more than we don't like them. I think they have to talk themselves into it, kind of, know what I mean? Since I've been here, we've beat them a lot more than they beat us. They have to talk about it a whole lot."

For the record, since Hampton's arrival in 2001, the Steelers are 14-9 against the Ravens (including the playoffs).

Tomlin says the pregame gum-flapping doesn't mean much. “Who’s angry, who’s not, what’s said, what’s not said ... that’s going to be irrelevant. We have two ... teams with the same intentions: to put themselves in position to chase the Lombardi. That’s why we will always have issues with those guys. Two trains on a track. See you Sunday."

We'll be there.

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Posted on: September 4, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: September 4, 2011 11:52 am
 

Terrelle Pryor to appeal 5-game suspension



Posted by Ryan Wilson

Terrelle Pryor has notified the NFL and the NFL Player's Association that he intends to appeal the five-game suspension handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell as part of the league's decision to allow Pryor to be eligible for the supplemental draft last month, the NFL Network's Albert Breer is reporting.

If nothing else, you have to appreciate the timing. On Friday, the Colts hired Jim Tressel, Pryor's coach at Ohio State before a scandal led to Pryor leaving school and Tressel resigning, as a game-day consultant. The problem: the move was made without the approval of the league office, and according to a PFT.com source, the league must give the OK before all hires become official.

Yahoo.com's Doug Farrar tweeted Sunday morning that it was a "Smart decision by Pryor and his people to appeal five-game suspension now. NFL has to address Tressel, change the [suspension], or REALLY look bad."

As we found out with the lockout, these things are as much about right and wrong as they are about winning the public relations battle. Then again, Goodell has shown in the past that he's willing to make unpopular decisions. Steelers backup quarterback and longtime Pryor mentor, Charlie Batch, recently told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Goodell has too much power.

"He took it to another level when he said he was going to suspend Terrelle Pryor for five games and he wasn't even in the NFL last year," he said. "How can you do that? It's not right. It's not right at all."

Pryor's Journey to Oakland

Players have also taken issue with Goodell arbitrarily meting out punishment, perhaps none more vocal in recent years than Batch's teammate, linebacker James Harrison. (More proof that there appears to be no method to Goodell's perceived madness: he didn't suspend Kenny Britt or Aqib Talib for serious and persistent offseason incidents.)

Pryor's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said on August 24 that Pryor would not appeal the suspension. Clearly, that has changed.

Now, in addition to the Tressel situation, the league will also have to deal with Pryor appealing his five-game suspension. As for the former, PFT's Mike Florio notes that it's not a question of if the NFL will allow Tressel to work for the Colts, but when.

"In Tressel’s case, the league faces a tricky decision," Florio wrote Saturday. "Notions of fairness and consistency require the league to treat Tressel, who resigned from Ohio State under duress after admitting that he failed to share with the NCAA information regarding activities that jeopardized the eligibility of Pryor and other players, the same way that it treated Pryor. By delaying Tressel’s entry to the NFL, the league would be bolstering the perception that overt favors are now being done for the curators of the free farm system.

"The question doesn’t become relevant until the Colts submit Tressel’s contract for approval by the league office. It hasn’t happened yet. Once it does, Tressel’s fate will be in the Commissioner’s hands."

The easiest way for the league to avoid the potential PR fallout? Punish both parties in a manner than most people would deem fair. History suggests that Goodell doesn't fully understand that dynamic. Or maybe he does and he doesn't care. Either way, the commissioner now has two more things on his to-do list with the start of the season less than a week away.

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Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:02 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 11:03 pm
 

James Harrison still not at full strength

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Steelers have an amazing knack for stocking their roster with quality players and not just the first-round picks. Late-round selections, undrafted free agents and cast-offs from other organizations all seem to find their niche in Pittsburgh. It helps explain how they've made three Super Bowl appearances in the last six years.

Despite all the successes, there are weaknesses. Most cited: the offensive line and the secondary, specifically depth at cornerback. Never, ever mentioned: the linebackers, particularly the outside linebackers.

But that's changing, even if temporarily. For now, we can add one of the Steelers' best players -- and one of the best linebackers in the league -- as a weakness, both figuratively and literally.

James Harrison, the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, had two back surgeries this the offseason. That, coupled with a lockout that prevented players from participating in OTAs and minicamps, means he's not yet in football shape -- and worse -- not yet at full strength, which is sort of important given his job description.

This was painfully evident during the Steelers' Week 3 preseason game against the Falcons. After flushing Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan from the pocket, Harrison appeared to run out of gas mid-sprint, slowed to a jog and eventually a brisk walk before the play was over. In the scheme of things it barely merited a mention … until you remember that this is James Harrison. His motor is always running.

Well, even a player as tenacious as Harrison is no match for dual back surgeries.

"He's not where he wants to be, he'll tell you that," linebackers coach Keith Butler told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's not where he usually is before a season. He's usually in better shape than anybody, but the back surgery slowed him down a little."

Head coach Mike Tomlin has limited Harrison's practice reps, which has also affected his conditioning. "It fatigues you a lot faster, especially when you're trying to deal with an injury, and it really fatigued me out there, I'm not going to lie," Harrison said. "That's something that comes with the territory."

More Steelers News

Harrison, who was cut by the Steelers and Ravens before finally sticking in Pittsburgh, is 33 and entering his eighth season. Given his intensity, it's also no surprise that he's frustrated by his current situation.

"It's more trying to get into game shape, trying to get your back to hold up the same as it did on the first play as it will the last play," he said. "That's something that will come with time. The longer I'm out there, the more I get reps in games, the better it will get.

"We got a lot more plays this week than we did last week, and I feel about the same as I did last week. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it was a lot more plays this week than last week and I feel about the same, so it's headed in the right direction."

Harrison, like most Steelers starters, isn't expected to play against the Panthers Thursday. That means that 2010 second-rounder Jason Worilds will get another opportunity to prove that he can fill in if needed, although he doesn't yet appear to be nearly the player LaMarr Woodley (a '07 second-rounder) was entering his second season.

The good news is that Harrison will be back to his normal menacing self. "I anticipate playing and eventually, yeah, I'll get to full strength," he said. "But, when that will be, I don't know."

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Posted on: August 24, 2011 6:03 pm
 

Mason fined $20K for Ocho hit, Ocho to reimburse?

Posted by Will Brinson

When we last left entertaining and enigmatic Pats wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, he was offering to pay for the likely fine coming Mason Foster's way after Foster kindly put his helmet to Chad's helmet in the field of play and knocked the snot out of ole' 85.

Well, Foster was indeed fined on Wednesday, to the tune of $20,000. That's a chunk of change to anyone, of course, but especially to a rookie. Foster's agent, Steve Caric, said the linebacker planned to appeal the fine. Foster seemed OK with it.

"Just got to pay it and keep on going from there," Foster said, per Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times. "Learn from it."

However, Ochocinco's not dropping the issue quite as easily. Despite the league forbidding him to repay Foster's fine, Ochocinco told Roger Goodell (via Twitter, natch) on Wednesday that he was reimbursing Mason anyway.

"@nflcommish Dad no disrespect but I don't agree with @mason_foster fine n I'll be reimbursing him personally. Please feel free to contact me," Ochocinco tweeted.

It'll be interesting to see whether the league attempts to fine Chad for openly flaunting the rules, or whether Chad makes a big deal out of paying Foster back or whether he just sends Foster 20,000 Xbox points online in order circumvent the law.

Of course, there's always a chance that @nflcommish (aka Roger Goodell) gets a lot of "@ replies" on Twitter and he won't see what Ochocinco said. Except that it was immediately retweeted by James Harrison.

And you know Goodell's watching his feed.

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