AFC North: fine
It sounded like Harbaugh was complimenting Roethlisberger for his toughness. But some ran with the "glad we broke his nose" part of the quote.
In the Steelers' locker room Tuesday, Roethlisberger said he knows Harbaugh and wasn't bothered by the comments. Like Roethlisberger, Harbaugh is a Miami (Ohio) alum.
"I think it was taken out of context, if you ask me," Roethlisberger said. "I know Coach Harbaugh. He's a Miami guy and us Miami guys stick together; there’s so few of us. Actually, on the field before every game we talk to each other and ask how everything is going. So I don't think it was intended maliciously at all."
- Is the Cincinnati Bengals' strong finish a repeat of 2008, where they finished the season with three straight wins?
- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has come into his own in his third season.
- Cleveland Browns backup quarterback Seneca Wallace believes president Mike Holmgren still has the itch to coach.
- After appealing, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison had his fine reduced from $75,000 to $50,000 for his hit on Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi.
The hit, which appeared unintentional, broke Roethlisberger's nose. Ngata was not flagged on the play.
"Of course, I think it's not right," Ngata told the Baltimore Sun. "I feel like there was no other way I could have played that play because I'm swimming the guard, he starts to duck, and my arm is coming down over the guard. But I'm going to appeal it and see if, hopefully, I can get some money back."
Ngata doesn't expect a decision from the NFL for at least two weeks, according to the report. Does he have a legitimate gripe?
- Jeremy Kapinos and Ricky Schmitt are vying for the Pittsburgh Steelers' punting job left vacant by the injured Daniel Sepulveda (knee).
- Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was fined $15,000 for his hit to the face on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
- Although Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme didn't thrown an interception against the Miami Dolphins, turnovers are still a concern.
- The Cincinnati Bengals likely will have their second blackout at home this season against the New Orleans Saints.
- Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison believes he's being targeted by the NFL.
- Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin isn't worried about his opportunities.
- Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme says he needs to avoid interceptions.
That's the tally (for now) with Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison. He was docked another $25,000 this week for a hit on Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. NFL deemed the helmet contact to the chest was the reason for the fine.
Looking at the play, I'm not sure what Harrison could have done better short of not hitting the quarterback in the first place. Perhaps he could have moved his head to the side and led with his shoulder, but the play is happening so fast it's hard to adjust.
Unlike fines given to Andre Johnson and Richard Seymour, all of Harrison's infractions this season have occurred in between the whistles. Harrison is one of the NFL's most ferocious hitters, and unless he becomes less ferocious, which is hard to do, the fines may continue to add up.
Now let's dig into the mailbag.
Theo from Raleigh, N.C., writes: I hate to beat the proverbial "Steelers being targeted" dead horse here. But do you think Ben Roethlisberger's public opinion of him had anything to do with Richard Seymour only getting a fine?
James Walker: Theo, I've seen the argument that if Tom Brady or Peyton Manning were hit in the face, it would have been a bigger deal. Although I agree the penalty could have been stiffer, I don't believe Roethlisberger's reputation had anything to do with the ruling.
Peter from St Andrews, Scotland, writes: I was wondering what you think was supposed to happen on the Antwaan Randle-El/Roethlisberger flea-flicker last week.
Walker: Interesting question, Peter. The play never had time to develop and wasn't well-executed so I can't say for sure. But I think Roethlisberger ran out as one option. Maybe the Steelers will come back to that play this season.
Patrick Charles from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Who is the fastest player in the AFC North?
Walker: Steelers receiver Mike Wallace is the fastest player I've seen, Patrick. Wallace is probably top five in the league. But we will never know for certain unless the NFL decides to hold a competition like it did back in the day.
Matthew Falkler from Daytona Beach, Florida, writes: What is your take on the argument between Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Derrick Mason?
Walker: Sideline blowups happen, Matthew. I'm actually surprised it took this long for the Ravens, because there are a lot of vocal players on offense this year who want the football. I think winning helps a ton and is part of the reason nothing boiled over until Week 11. But if the Ravens ever have a significant losing streak this season, you would probably hear more bickering from players who feel they could do more to help the team.
Marcus from Baltimore writes: Do you think the Ravens and Steelers will make the playoffs?
Walker: Yes, Marcus, I believe this division gets two playoff teams. One wild card likely will be the loser of Dec. 5 matchup between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The winner of that game obviously has the inside track to win the AFC North.
Patrick Ryan from San Antonio, Texas, writes: This year pretty much solidifies that Ed Reed is better than Troy Polamalu.
Walker: You didn't get the memo, Patrick? The correct answer is "Troy Reed" on all matters relating to Ed Reed vs. Troy Polamalu.
E.J. from Pomona, CA, writes: Who has the better commercials: Ray Lewis or Troy Polamalu?
Walker: "Ray Polamalu." Just kidding, E.J. I like Polamalu's commercials better.
Josh from Cleveland writes: The Browns are obviously a lot better than the record shows. So will we see a playoff or even a Super Bowl Browns team next season?
Walker: Sloooow down on the Super Bowl talk with Cleveland, Josh. Browns fans tend to get overexcited when they see signs of progress. I take things one year at a time, and this year the Browns aren't going to the playoffs. Their best-case scenario is to try to get seven or eight wins and build in the offseason.
Joe Marzano from West Middlesex, Pa., writes: Do you think Browns coach Eric Mangini is safe this year, no matter the record?
Walker: Browns president Mike Holmgren hasn't made his decision, Joe. So it's still to be determined. The record won't be everything, but it will be a factor. Mangini can't lose the rest of his games, go 3-13, and keep his post. The Browns have to finish strong and show improvement over last year's 5-11 record.
Bryan Roberts from Philadelphia writes: With the recent firing of Brad Childress in Minnesota and Wade Phillips in Dallas, when will Mike Brown fire Bengals coach Marvin Lewis?
Walker: Don't look for it, Bryan. Lewis is in his last year and only has five games remaining on his contract. The Bengals are expected to let him coach out the season and probably won't renew his deal.
Dave from Cincinnati writes: The Bengals have so many needs to be addressed in the upcoming draft. What position should their first pick be on?
Walker: This really depends on what direction the team takes in the offseason, Dave. Do the Bengals keep quarterback Carson Palmer, for instance? If so, then quarterback is not the biggest need, although Cincinnati may want to draft one in the second or third round to mold for the future. If the Bengals release Palmer, it would make sense to use their first-round pick on a quarterback. But one need that's going to be there regardless is an elite pass-rusher. This could come at outside linebacker (move Rey Maualuga inside) or a defensive end. Cincinnati needs to improve that part of the defense in the early rounds.
Comments and complaints department
Here are some comments and complaints this week from our AFC North community.
Rick from Pittsburgh writes: Every time you put up a "look back" blog such as the Cincinnati fans comments about them being awesome, it's probably my favorite reading material ever now that they are terrible this season.
Cupp from Hebron, Ohio, writes: It's been 21 years as a Bengals fan and only three winning seasons. Mike Brown has no idea what he is doing. If they expand the season to 18 games, I will most likely not be a fan of the NFL anymore and just stick to the Buckeyes. Why would I want to see the BUNGALS lose more games next season.
Walker: Rick, everyone liked that post except Bengals fans, who voiced their displeasure in our division inbox. But when we did the same blogs last year when everyone was ripping the Bengals and they won the division, Cincy fans loved it. You can't have it both ways. Cupp, stay strong in your fandom and support your team. Two more games also would be a chance to collect two more wins.
Noelle from Los Angeles writes: What needs to be clearly defined is what is "roughing" the passer? These football players are not unnecessarily hitting or using violence against the quarterbacks. They are simply doing their jobs as football players and tackling the passer. NFL speak your ground: Let's hear how you define these terms.
Walker: I agree, Noelle. In talking to players throughout the division, I'm not sure there is universal clarity on the subject. Some hits are harder than others, but many of them are being flagged. It's clear the NFL wants to protect its quarterbacks. But how far they're going is what's being questioned.
Pconti from Colorado (by way of Akron, OH) writes: What do you think about starting the Cleveland Clowns movement? Fans can wear clown outfits to the games until they are over .500.
Walker: Pconti, you would be wearing that suit for the rest of the year, because the Browns probably won't finish 8-8 this season.
AFC North Homer of the Week
We saved this special comment for a while and now it's time to unveil it. Keep in mind, this was written last month by one of our favorite bloggers in our AFC North community.
Zach aka Sportsfan2305 from Columbus, OH, writes: CHALLLENGE FOR JW. I feel special that I was one of your posters on "Remember the offseason" Bengals edition. However, you gotta admit, with the weak first-half schedule there was no reason why the Bengals SHOULDN'T have started off hot and then sputtered against the tougher second-half opponents. Therefore, I have a wager to make you my friend: If the Bengals finish 10-6 or better I would like a retraction that, while I was a bit outspoken with my comment, it wasn't necessarily a homer comment. If they do not then I will never challenge your ruling again and will change my user name to "JW is a Sports Genius" for the entire offseason. What do you think?
Walker: Zach, not only was your offseason comment a homer statement, but you're officially our "Homer of the Week." Wear it proud.
If you have any questions, comments or complaints, feel free to send them to our division inbox or AFC North Twitter.
- Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens called Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger "soft" for his reaction after getting hit in the face last week.
- Speaking of the Steelers, head coach Mike Tomlin took the high road in reaction to the $25,000 fine levied to Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh says quarterback Joe Flacco has a competitive fire.
- Should the Cleveland Browns (3-7) be wary of the Carolina Panthers (1-9)?
- The agent for James Harrison says he expects to hear from the NFL soon on whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker will get fined this week.
- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh says he's not concerned with the recent sideline altercation between quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Derrick Mason.
- Ex-Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman John Thornton says his former team needs to establish a clear-cut direction.
- Veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme is healthy again and has a chance to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, his former team.
- According to Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, he will beat his brother, Rex Ryan, and the New York Jets Sunday.
- Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward says the team won't look ahead after a 6-2 start.
- Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White admits he "pushed down" Baltimore Ravens cornerback Josh Wilson for Thursday's game-winning touchdown.
- Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco was fined $20,000 for wearing gold cleats.
Furthermore, Polamalu's suggestion this week of adding a governing body to regulate fines is one of the most intelligent ideas I've heard all year.
"There needs to be some type of separation of power, like our government," Polamalu said. "I don't think it should be based totally on what two or three people may say that are totally away from the game. It should be some of the players that are currently playing."
There's a select few that impact the lives of many in the NFL. That's not how democracy works in America. Why should it be different for America's most popular sport?
Polamalu was sticking up for Steelers teammate James Harrison, who was fined another $20,000 for his hit on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Harrison has been fined a total of $100,000 this year, proving it's much cheaper to play offense in the NFL.
The league is handing out excessive fines this season because a small, yet powerful group -- led by Goodell and NFL vice president Ray Anderson -- decided as much for more than 1,600 players.
Will Goodell relent some of that power by creating an independent governing body to monitor fines in the future? I don't see it. But it doesn't mean Polamalu's idea isn't a good one.
- Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison was fined another $20,000 for his hit last weekend on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
- The Baltimore Ravens are preparing for the passing game of the Miami Dolphins.
- Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph says his injured ankle is about "90 percent."
- Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy is in line to make his third consecutive start after veterans Seneca Wallace (ankle) and Jake Delhomme (ankle) missed Thursday's practice.
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:
Upset linebacker: Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison was so disgruntled by his $75,000 fine this week that he was excused from practice Wednesday and briefly contemplated retirement. Now he's back and vows not to change his aggressive playing style despite increased scrutiny by the NFL on big hits. We will see how much or how little Harrison adjusts Sunday against Miami. Any big hit the league deems illegal could cost him a lot of money, as the NFL already set the bar for Harrison this week at $75,000. Or he could be suspended. The Week 6 big hits by Harrison gave Cleveland Browns receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi concussions.
Bye-week blues: For many teams, the bye week is an opportunity to regroup and then play their best football. But that hasn't been the case recently for the Cincinnati Bengals. During the Marvin Lewis era, Cincinnati is only 2-4-1 in games following the bye. The Bengals have several issues that need to be addressed heading into Sunday's important game against the Atlanta Falcons. Cincinnati cannot afford to fall to 2-4 in a deep AFC.
Quarterback dilemma: Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy will get his second career start Sunday, against the New Orleans Saints. Coming off a relatively good debut against Pittsburgh, McCoy could make it tough on Browns coach Eric Mangini with another good performance. The plan was not to play the third-round pick at all this season. But a pair of severe ankle sprains to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace forced McCoy into action last week. If McCoy pulls off the major upset and beats the Saints, the job is his. Otherwise, the Browns will have to evaluate their quarterback situation during the bye.
Finish strong: The Baltimore Ravens are disappointed in their overtime loss to the New England Patriots. But the Ravens have a golden opportunity to head into the bye week 5-2 with a win Sunday against the lowly Buffalo Bills (0-5). There is some pressure at home on Baltimore, as it cannot have a letdown against arguably the NFL's worst team. There is already conversation this week of whether the Bills could beat an UFL team, which is embarrassing, but also could inspire Buffalo to bring its best effort at M&T Bank Stadium.
Harrison was excused from practice Wednesday and said he was mulling retirement after a $75,000 fine for his hit on Cleveland Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Harrison was both confused and upset by the fine. But as the AFC North blog predicted, cooler heads eventually prevailed.
The Steelers (4-1) will play the Miami Dolphins (3-2) on Sunday.