Ravens, Steelers lament the new NFL

The Steelers and Ravens may be hated rivals, but they stood together yesterday in the face of the league's apparent attempts to eradicate tackle football.

PITTSBURGH – At his press conference the previous day, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked whether the fines and penalties levied against his team of late have been fair.

"Man, life isn't fair," Tomlin said. "I'm not concerned about fairness. I'm really not. I'm concerned with preparing for the Baltimore Ravens."

But yesterday, the leaders of his team weren't feeling as singularly focused. They ripped into the league office after receiving a surprising endorsement from Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. Suggs was asked – during an early conference call with Pittsburgh reporters – about the way officials have been doling out personal-foul penalties.

"I think they are treating some quarterbacks different than others," started Suggs. "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 is a rule and possible suspensions and excessive fines. It is just getting ridiculous.

"You got this guy, number 92 [James Harrison] 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 is definitely some injustice and I think that's where the game has went."

Ben Roethlisberger and his Steelers teammates agreed, of course, with Suggs, particularly after the way Roethlisberger was sacked early in the fourth quarter by Marcus Stroud last Sunday. After the whistle had blown, Stroud continued turning Roethlisberger onto his back with the help of Bills linebacker Arthur Moats, who also dug his elbow into Roethlisberger's throat. No penalty was called.

"They want their quarterbacks protected. They want their quarterbacks selling tickets," said Steelers linebacker James Farrior, who was asked if he meant all quarterbacks.

"Seems like it's a select few because I know our quarterback takes a lot of shots. He's banged up right now. I don't think they do a great job of protecting him."

"If that was Tom Brady or Peyton Manning," Harrison said of the cheap shots Roethlisberger took from the Bills, "they might've suspended that guy."

Harrison, of course, was fined $25,000 for his hit on Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It was his fourth fine of the season and added to his running tab of $125,000. But he doesn't feel the need to change the way he plays.

"I don't have to change my game," Harrison said. "There's nothing wrong with it."

Harrison believes the genesis of the league's focus upon him came the day the media zealously reported the series of rugged hits that occurred on the same Sunday as his two hits in Cleveland. After the game, Harrison told reporters that he wasn't trying to injure players, but that he was trying to hurt them.

"That had a lot to with what happened to me at the beginning," Harrison said. "I regret making that statement, yeah, definitely. I believe that's the whole reason I was fined $75,000, because of what I said after the game, not the actual hit itself."

Team leaders for the Steelers strongly condemned the league, not only for its apparent focus on Harrison but for the way the game is being run in general.

"He didn't deserve that fine," said Farrior. "He didn't deserve the penalty. And I think he's being targeted. It's unfair. And somebody's got to do something."

"They don't care about the safety of the game," said Hines Ward. "If you were so concerned about the safety, why are you adding two more games? That right there tells it all. They don't care about the safety of the game. You can sit there and say you're worried about concussions, but if they were worried about concussions, they'd give us those so-called new helmets. They'd mandate them all over the league. Each player would have a new helmet on, but they don't do that. They collect money from every helmet that pays them enough money to get their helmets on the field. Now we have three different helmets and none of them have been proven to work. They're hypocrites. You say one thing and you do another. You talk about safety but you add on two games. You don't want players to drink but our major endorsement is Coors Light and that's all you see are beer commercials. You say you don't want us to gamble, but yet you have spreads on the game. For us as players, we just play football. Whatever the NFL decides to do, we're going to do."

(Read the transcripts of interviews with Suggs, Ward, Farrior and Harrison here on our message board).

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