Steelers coach Mike Tomlin defended James Harrison in a conference call with Cleveland reporters Wednesday, saying the linebacker isn't a dirty player. The Cleveland media pressed Tomlin on the subject after Harrison's latest questionable hit on a Browns player left quarterback Colt McCoy with a concussion.
Here's a portion of the question-and-answer session between Tomlin and Cleveland reporters:
Question: Have you had talks with James about playing inside the rules better?
Tomlin: It’s not a conversation that we have in reaction to a play or that play. Those types of discussions are continual not only with him but the rest of our football team because we have a desire to play within the rules. Being penalized and highly penalized doesn’t improve your chances of winning and that’s what we’re about.
Question: Is he a dirty player?
Question: How do you equate what’s going on with those kinds of hits and say he’s not a dirty player when he’s lowering his helmet and using it like that?
Tomlin: They're unfortunate plays. I think the circumstances around those plays and all of that's been well documented. I base my judgment on his quality of play, based on his total body of work, from being around him day to day for the last five years. I can say comfortably that I don't believe that James Harrison is a dirty player.
Question: Do you think it’s a failure on your part not to get your message across?
Answer: No, I don't think it's a failure on anyone's part. I just think sometimes there's gonna be some unfortunate collisions in the game of football, all of which of course are not going to be legal.
Question: At which point in his career do you think he made the conscious decision to be a headhunter?
Answer: I hadn't said that he is. Those are your words, not mine, my man.
Question: It seems to be the league's word, too.
Answer: I don't know that they characterize him in that way. I think they said the hit was illegal. But I wouldn't say that he's been characterized in that manner.