NFL Nation: suspensions

The Pittsburgh Steelers were last season's poster children for the NFL's increased policing of big hits. As the league's most physical defense, Pittsburgh players were getting fined or suffered questionable flags regularly during their run to Super Bowl XLV.

[+] EnlargeJames Harrison
Charles LeClaire/US PresswirePittsburgh linebacker James Harrison received more than $100,000 in fines from the NFL last season.
On Wednesday, NFL vice president Ray Anderson said in a conference call that the league will be even more stern in disciplining players next season, especially repeat offenders. That is not good news for Pittsburgh.

But will the Steelers soften their stance? Pittsburgh's biggest strength is its physicality and aggressiveness. It's a major part of the team's identity and storied history.

The Steelers led the league in run defense by a wide margin last season and intimidated quarterbacks with an NFL-best 48 sacks. But according to Anderson, many of those big hits that resulted in fines and personal fouls could lead to suspensions in 2011, which would hurt Pittsburgh in subsequent games.

The Steelers were not shy about venting their frustration. In February they seemed to enjoy using the league's biggest platform -- the Super Bowl -- to call out the NFL. Linebacker James Harrison, last season's most-fined player, suggested the league provide pillows on the field for players he tackled. Harrison's teammates joined in the fray throughout Super Bowl week, complaining how the league has softened.

Unless the Steelers themselves decide to play softer, we could be heading for another collision course. It's hard to change a team's identity overnight. So expect more controversy, fines and verbal jousting between Pittsburgh and the NFL in 2011.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The suspensions of Deuce McAllister, Will Smith and Charles Grant have been blocked -- at least temporarily -- by a federal judge. But that doesn't mean there should be any more celebrating than usual in the French Quarter.

This is only a small victory for New Orleans and it may not last long. The judge said he needs more information and time. That buys the Saints a little bit of time because it looks like McAllister and Smith will be eligible to play in Sunday's game against Atlanta.

Does it really matter?

A few years ago, it would have been huge because McAllister was New Orleans' best player. But he's been nothing more than a role player this year. Sure, it would be nice if he's completely cleared so his legacy as perhaps the best and most popular player in franchise history can live peacefully forever. But whether McAllister plays in Sunday's game isn't going to make that much of a difference.

Smith is actually a bigger deal because he's a starting defensive end. So was Grant, but he already went out for the season with an injury. So, basically, the advantage here for the 6-6 Saints is that they get to play Smith as they cling to their playoff hope.

Is that really going to be enough to get them to the playoffs?

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

McAllisterSmith

LONDON, England -- What had been a very quiet week for the New Orleans Saints suddenly ended about the time the team left the castle it was using as headquarters in the English countryside and checked into a London hotel late Friday afternoon.

The reports that running back Deuce McAllister and defensive end Will Smith are among a group of players to test positive for a substance banned by the NFL came after both players practiced at The Grove in Watford on Friday morning.

The league and the Saints haven't commented on the reports, but it appears certain McAllister and Smith will play in Sunday's game against the Chargers at Wembley Stadium. Even if McAllister and Smith face possible suspensions, it wouldn't happen before Sunday's game.

The league generally follows a procedure where suspensions are announced early in the week to allow teams to prepare for playing without those players. If McAllister and Smith were going to be suspended for this game, the league wouldn't have let them make the trip to England.

McAllister, a longtime starter at running back, had been replaced by Reggie Bush this season. But Bush had knee surgery Monday and McAllister is expected to start and get most of the carries against the Saints.

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