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Sports Then and Now



Pittsburgh Steelers Miss the Point in Battle With Roger Goodell 11

Posted on August 06, 2011 by Dean Hybl

James Harrison and the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't happy with the NFL's policy for fines on illegal hits.

For decades, the Pittsburgh Steelers have used the squeaky image of the Rooney family to portray itself as the blue-collar franchise of the NFL and a team filled with hard-working every-day players. Based on their recent vote on the collective bargaining agreement, it could be argued that the Pittsburgh players are instead actually a bunch of self-absorbed thugs.

Unlike the other 31 teams, the Steelers decided that they would vote as a team against the agreement because they didn’t like that it wouldn’t significantly alter the way in which fines and punishments are administered across the NFL for illegal hits or for violations of the personal conduct policy.

The primary reason for their displeasure is that Commissioner Roger Goodell has been very stern in recent years and doesn’t play favorites.

In recent years, Pittsburgh players have been among the most fined in the NFL for hits deemed to be dangerous and beyond normal levels of physicality. Most notably, linebacker James Harrison was fined four times for $100,000 in 2010 for illegal hits.

Granted that football is generally a violent game, but there are some hits that are without question made not to tackle an opposing player, but instead to try as much as possible to inflict bodily harm on them.

The NFL has been trying in recent years to reduce those kinds of hits and make the game safer. Some of their new rules, especially those related to a quarterback, may go a bit too far, but those designed to stop helmet-to-helmet hits and to protect a defenseless player have been a positive step.

In the recent labor agreement, a big issue for the players was health and safety. They bargained for a reduction in off-season, pre-season and in-season practices under the guise that fewer practices where the players are in pads and hitting each other will help prolong careers.

Having a strong policy against illegal hits would seem to be another valuable tool in trying to make the game safer. However, for players like Harrison, who play at a reckless level, the fines and punishment is seen as a hindrance to their ability to be successful. Read the rest of this entry →

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