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Steelers’ Harrison Gets 1-Game NFL Ban for Fifth Illegal Hit

James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers
James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers snaps in his chin guard during training camp. Photographer: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison was suspended for one game by the National Football League for his fifth illegal hit against a quarterback in the last three seasons.

Harrison received a roughing-the-passer penalty for a head-to-head hit against Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy during the Steelers’ 14-3 win on Dec. 8.

Harrison, 33, was fined four times for illegal hits on quarterbacks during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He also was fined twice by the league for unnecessary roughness over that period, the NFL said in a statement.

Harrison said on Twitter that he’s “just going to move on from here and get ready for my next game.”

NFL rules state that players fined for violations in 2009 and 2010 are considered repeat offenders. He would lose one game paycheck if the suspension is upheld. Fox Sports said Harrison makes about $215,000 a game.

Harrison has three days to file an appeal, the league said. If he accepts the ban, he’d miss the Steelers’ Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 19. Pittsburgh is tied with the Baltimore Ravens for first place in the American Football Conference North division at 10-3.

Harrison told reporters yesterday he didn’t expect to be disciplined, saying McCoy started running and then made a quick pass to Montario Hardesty just before being hit.

‘Chucked and Ducked’

“He took off running and then at the last second he chucked and ducked,” Harrison said after practice.

The NFL said in its statement that defensive players can’t use their helmets against a quarterback out of the pocket who is in a defenseless posture. The league cited Article 13 of its rulebook, which prohibits “forcibly hitting the passer’s head or neck area with the helmet or facemask, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the passer by encircling or grasping him.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he’s disappointed, yet accepts the NFL’s ruling.

“We are disappointed for James because we know how hard he has worked to play within the rules,” Tomlin said today at a news conference. “He has worked extremely hard to adjust his game. Unfortunately the incident happened. Of course it was a penalty. We have to be accountable for that; he has to be accountable for that. We’ll move forward.”

Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was suspended without pay by the NFL two weeks ago for two games for stomping on an opposing player during a Nov. 24 game against the Green Bay Packers.

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