- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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PITTSBURGH -- James Harrison was fined $125,000 for illegal hits last season, and he should receive another huge hit to his paycheck after his vicious fourth-quarter collision with Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.
The problem is, fines aren't working with Harrison. The NFL fined him $75,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi last year, and he used the same illegal hit Thursday night. Maybe a suspension will cause Harrison to change his ways. It might have to come to this.
Harrison said he believes he didn't do anything wrong. Huh? He clearly lowers his helmet and the crown of his helmet makes direct contact with McCoy's jaw. McCoy was going down or ducking. If Harrison had learned from past mistakes, he would have lead with his shoulder.
Still, Harrison maintains innocence.
"From what I understand, once the quarterback leaves the pocket, he's considered a runner," Harrison said. "All the defenseless(ness) and liberties that a quarterback has in the pocket are gone and you can tackle him just as he's a running back. The hit wasn't late, so I really don't understand why it was called."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can explain it to Harrison. "[McCoy] had just thrown the football," Tomlin said after the game when asked about the hit. "So they called it a helmet-to-helmet hit."
I often defend players on such hits because the numerous rules take away the defenders' aggressiveness. It's tough to ask a player to hit a target zone when you need replays to keep up with the speed of the game.
There's just no excuse with this one. McCoy was scrambling to avoid pressure when he tucked the ball under his arm briefly as if he was going to run. But he pulled up as Harrison closed in and flipped a pass to running back Montario Hardesty before the Steelers linebacker crashed into him.
McCoy said he "was good enough" to go back in the game, but he did injure his left hand when he raised it to protect himself. He sat out two plays before returning and throwing an interception on third-and-goal in the end zone. That came with the Browns trailing 7-3 with 3:11 left in the game.
Asked if Harrison's hit was a "cheap shot," McCoy said, "I don't know."
That's OK, McCoy. Everyone except Harrison knows the answer to that.