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Harrison, Woodley up in arms over so-called 'Steelers rule'

  • By NFL.com
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The NFL's announcement that it will punish teams if their players commit multiple flagrant hits is being called "the Steelers rule" by some. But the Steelers want nothing to do with it.

Pittsburgh linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley expressed anger and bewilderment over the league's rule changes, accusing the NFL of ruining the game with heavy-handed legislation.

Harrison, whom the league fined $100,000 for flagrant hits last season, kicked off the criticism Tuesday night when he tweeted "the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots." He further explained his views in his blog, in which he admitted, "I don't disagree with all of the rule changes," but accused the NFL of picking on the notoriously hard-hitting Steelers.

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"The decision to call a penalty or impose a fine is seemingly, at least some of the time, dependent upon the uniform and the player," Harrison wrote. "After my meeting this past fall with (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell, (executive vice president of football operations) Ray Anderson, and (assistant director of operations) Merton Hanks and some others, who I now have absolutely no respect for (to keep it PG), I definitely believe there is no equality in their enforcement of these rules.

"These rules are targeting hard hitting players and defenses i.e. STEELERS. I guess the NFL needed a poster child for their campaign."

Woodley agreed with his teammate, tweeting: "Thoughts on 'the steelers rule'??? lol I'm sorry that I'm not sorry we hit 2 hard." He was more emphatic during an interview Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

"Football is turning soft now," Woodley said. "Too many fines. Too many penalties protecting the quarterback every single play. Defensive guys can't be defensive guys no more. I mean, that's what Pittsburgh, that's what we're built on ... playing aggressive football, attacking, hitting people hard, you know, making quarterbacks shake. ... You can't even touch them.

"Having all the fines and the penalties is stupid because it's taking away from the game," Woodley added. "We knew what we were signing up for when we started playing football. We knew that. Everybody knew that. Every quarterback knew that, Roger Goodell knew that, but I don't know if he ever played football, so I don't if he really understands the hard hitting of the sport."

Woodley said the Steelers have won the most Super Bowls in NFL history because "we play hard-nosed football. We didn't get six Lombardis by playing soft football. We got it by playing aggressive football -- hitting teams hard -- and I don't think that will ever change. I don't care how many times you get fined."

Steelers president Art Rooney II isn't thrilled about the NFL policy's link to his team.

"I'm not sure I like it being referred to as the Steelers rule," Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday. "It's a policy the commissioner is still considering and has not put into effect yet, but he intends to put it into effect.

"I would hope it's something used on rare occasions and only in exceptional situations. I think our rules are adequate, and I think everyone is trying to adjust here."

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The punishment for excessive flagrant hits will be financial, although NFL vice president Adolpho Birch said Tuesday that he didn't rule out Goodell applying further sanctions such as stripping teams of draft choices.

Citing the "notion of club accountability," Birch said details such as the amount of the fines against teams, or how many player fines would trigger punishment, haven't been determined.

The NFL began a crackdown on illegal hits, particularly those to defenseless players, last October. It threatened suspensions, but no players were suspended. However, Anderson has said suspensions will be considered for egregious hits.

Harrison believes there will be confusion about what hits fall into that category.

"Now you have to wait until a guy catches, or even worse, you have to let them catch the ball before you can even attempt to tackle him," Harrison wrote in his blog. "Along with that, you cannot let any part of your helmet or facemask touch any part of them basically from the chest up. If you are following the letter of the rules exactly, now most tackles, if not ALL tackles can be flagged, fined and/or result in ejection from that game, or future game(s). ...

"I know there are hits out there that could go either way, but if it's me I already know which way they are going to go," Harrison added. "I love this game, but I hate what they are trying to turn it into."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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