PITTSBURGH -- Fines and flags, punches and puzzlement.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have faced many potential distractions since linebacker James Harrison's helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi last month helped trigger the NFL's stricter stance against dangerous play. Steelers players have been fined multiple times and flagged for a record amount of penalty yardage.
While the Steelers complain that the toughened-up rules are being redefined almost weekly, causing confusion about what hits are legal and which will draw punishment, their coach doesn't want any more debate about what is being called -- and what isn't.
"I don't have a reaction," Tomlin of the league's decision only to fine Seymour $25,000 for punching Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "I tend to focus on the things that are relevant to our team moving forward and the things that we can control. That doesn't fall into either category. Really, that is between Richard Seymour and the NFL office."
Tomlin's implied message to his players is to focus only on what they can control, beginning with their preparation for Sunday's game at Buffalo (2-8).
"I know there's been some heated reaction from players and coaches around the league in terms of how the game is being officiated. Very rarely do I view guys being pleased with officiating when it doesn't go your way," Tomlin said. "Such is life, man. We're not going to worry about those things. We're going to prepare ourselves for the challenges in front of us."
Tomlin's remarks likely were intended to defuse any anger his players felt about Seymour's punishment consisting only of a fine that is one-third as much as the $75,000 penalty that Harrison paid. While Seymour was ejected for his infraction, Harrison wasn't penalized for the Massaquoi hit.
Harrison, among others, wondered if the Steelers (7-3) have been more closely scrutinized than other teams since the stricter rule enforcement began. If the Steelers had delivered some of the same hits the Raiders did, Harrison said, "I think there would have been a lot more penalties called, they would have kicked five or six of us out of the game."
"Emotions are going to get away from you when something like that occurs," Tomlin said. "You hope something like that never occurs in a football game, but it did. For the most part, I thought our guys were able to gather themselves quickly after that sequence of events and get back to what we intended to do, which was playing winning football."
To do that, Tomlin repeated that he doesn't want the Steelers to change their mindset or on-field approach in response to the league's decision to emphasize player safety.
So far, Tomlin's only critical comments aimed at the NFL came when he refuted executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson's suggestion that Harrison pulled up and didn't deliver a possible big hit the week after the Massaquoi play. Tomlin called those comments "insulting."
"We're not going to get overly concerned about the penalties, or the nature or state of the NFL in terms of how things are being officiated," Tomlin said. "All we're going to simply do is play the game extremely hard, play it as fairly as we can, play it within the rules and play to win. Those are the things that are at the forefront of my mentality, those are the things I want at the forefront of our team's mentality. Those are the things we control. So we're going to stay right there."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press