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Be happy, Harrison: NFL crackdown backs Steelers' 'nasty' rep

If I'm James Harrison or any other defensive player on the Pittsburgh Steelers, I'm not complaining about the fact the NFL is singling out me or my team for the flagrant hits we deliver.

I'm embracing it.

Hey, guys, the NFL has gone as far as to establish legislation -- calling for teams to be fined for players' repeated rule-breaking hits -- that for all practical purposes bears your name. And when anyone mentions the "Steelers rule," the first word that comes to mind is "nasty."

You don't just think about the ultra-aggressive manner in which Pittsburgh's defenders play. You think about the way they're coached. You picture coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau encouraging a playing style that puts a premium on intimidation -- so much so that the league now is holding them directly responsible for when their players draw flags and fines on multiple occasions.

This isn't meant to condone illegal or dangerous contact, such as the helmet-to-helmet variety. It's merely pointing out that, for as long as there has been football, there have been players and teams that have benefitted from having certain reputations. Invariably, badder is better.

That's why Harrison had it all wrong with this Twitter posting: "I'm absolutely sure now after this last rule change that the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots." What he should have posted was: "Thank you!"

Harrison's teammate and fellow linebacker, LaMarr Woodley, seemed to better grasp the opportunity at hand with this tweet: "Thoughts on 'the steelers rule'??? lol I'm sorry that I'm not sorry we hit 2 hard."

If I'm these guys, I'm milking that outlaw reputation for all that it's worth, because it could be worth a lot. It just might prove to be the deciding factor in a victory, providing that critical edge at the most critical time of a game.

Think about it. Thanks to the league's obsession with reining in the Steelers' defense, opposing offenses have something extra to consider before the game even begins: Is it safe to wander into a particular part of the field? To reach up for a pass and expose too much of the body? To hang in the pocket for that extra second or two?

When opposing players are thinking too much about the consequences of their actions, they're less likely to make the plays they're supposed to make. It's like adding a 12th man to what already ranks as one of the best defenses in the NFL.

» Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci

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