Steelers linebacker James Harrison will not play at San Francisco on Monday night after his appeal of a one-game suspension was denied Friday, and it really couldn't come at a worse time for Pittsburgh. The loss of Harrison could cost the Steelers a chance at winning the AFC North title, a home playoff game and a first-round bye.
The Steelers can't afford to lose another game because they have to finish one game ahead of the Ravens (who swept them this season) to capture the division. When looking at Pittsburgh's final three regular-season games -- San Francisco, St. Louis and Cleveland -- the Monday night game at the NFC West champion 49ers is the one for which Harrison is needed the most. Harrison's suspension wouldn't hurt the team as much if he were banned for the games against two last-place teams (Rams and Browns).
If Pittsburgh loses at San Francisco and Baltimore wins at San Diego, the Ravens would clinch the division title with a victory next week.
The good news for the Steelers is that linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who missed four of the past five games with a hamstring injury, isn't on the injury report this week. When Harrison was sidelined four games with an eye injury, Woodley recorded 7.5 sacks. Jason Worilds, who is expected to replace Harrison, has three sacks in his past three games.
Harrison received the ban after his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy on Dec. 8. He was suspended by the league Tuesday, and the ruling was upheld by NFL-NFLPA on-field appeals officer Ted Cottrell, a former NFL defensive coordinator. Harrison became the first player suspended under the stricter safety guidelines because he was a repeat offender.