Here We Go Steelers!
Well I finally broke down and wrote a football post. I am a huge Steelers fan so I thoroughly enjoyed watching the game Sunday night. Being a Steelers fan I would have preferred a blow out by the Steelers while watching the game just to reduce my anxiety, but after they pulled it out I was glad that it was such a close and competitive game. Had the Cardinals been playing anyone but Pittsburgh, I would have been pulling strongly for Arizona. I am less of a Kurt Warner fan than I was earlier in his career but I still like the guy and think he is a great quarterback. I really like Fitzgerald. He seems like a great guy and is an incredibly entertaining and talented receiver. Roethlisberger was great and so was Santonio Holmes. The catch in the end zone was beautiful and as clutch as you can get. While he deserves the MVP I think Roethlisberger deserved it as well. He made play after amazing play avoiding sacks and finding receivers down the field. Unfortunately, there is only one MVP award and it is hard to argue against Holmes, especially considering his role in that last drive.
Harrison and Madden: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
James Harrison is a crazy good linebacker. He had 16 sacks during the regular season and was held about 1000 times (though only about a half dozen of those holds were ever called). I was glad to see the refs actually call some well deserved holding calls on the Cards when trying to keep Harrison off Warner (Boomer Esiason said he thought Harrison was being held on almost every down). His interception and return was amazing. It was a total defensive team effort but the play and run by Harrison was one for the ages.
Harrison was flagged for unnecessary roughness while blocking on a kick return. The penalty was well deserved but a few things need to be said regarding his actions. I have heard that Harrison punched the guy he was holding down. I have seen the incident replayed numerous times and there is no punch. Harrison does slam his open hand down on the guy in an effort to keep him down. What was really ugly was how ferociously he pushed the guy down after he briefly got up from being held down. To be fair though, I have seen much worse during kick returns. I have seen two guys double team one and continually slam that person down whenever he tries to get off the ground. I have seen this happen without drawing a flag and I have seen such replays being shown without any negative comments or outrage from the commentators.
It is unfortunate because Harrison will be seen by many to be a very dirty player based on his actions and the resultant penalty. Harrison went overboard and the penalty was deserved but anyone who has followed the Steelers throughout the season knows that this is not characteristic of Harrison’s play. It’s the first time I have ever seen anything like this from him. I don’t think he has even once drawn a penalty for a late hit. It makes me wonder what the guy might have been saying to Harrison. It does not excuse his reaction, but I would not be surprised if Harrison was being verbally provoked.
What really surprised me was Madden’s comments that Harrison should be “thrown out”. Whenever I see Madden cover the Steelers it seems he has something to say about a particular play. Maybe he is still sore about getting spanked by the Steelers in the 1974 AFC championship game after essentially declaring that the two best teams in football had already battled it out when his Raiders played and beat the defending Super Bowl Champions (the Miami Dolphins) in the divisional round. The Steelers proved that Madden was very wrong when they dominated the Raiders in the Championship game.
But the thing that makes Madden’s comments bordering on absurdly hypocritical is the fact that his Raiders were annually known as the dirtiest team in football. Numerous cheap shots and unsportsmanlike penalties were virtually guaranteed in any Raiders game. I don’t remember Madden arguing that any of his players should be “thrown out” for such behavior back then. Interesting to say the least.