Steelers’ Harrison fined $25K

Already irked about the $100,000 in fines accumulated by James Harrison, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin can’t be happy about his star linebacker’s latest NFL punishment.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Harrison was fined another $25,000 Tuesday for a helmet-leading strike on Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in last Sunday’s 19-16 overtime win over the Bills. That raises Harrison’s 2010 fine total to $125,000 for four hit-related infractions.

Harrison’s punishment wasn’t reported before Tomlin’s weekly Tuesday appearance on Sirius NFL Radio. Tomlin, though, told me and co-host Rich Gannon that he believes the magnitude of the previous $100,000 in fines levied on Harrison isn’t being publicly appreciated. This is because of the perception that $100,000 isn’t a major sum for a player like Harrison, who is earning $3.55 million this season.

“We talk about the money like it’s Monopoly money sometimes just because these guys happen to be professional athletes,” Tomlin said. “($100,000) is ($100,000), I don’t care how much money you make. I take offense at times just in general how all of us talk about the money. … He’s got two kids. That’s some serious college schooling right there potentially for those kids 16, 18 years from now.”

Tomlin also said the NFL fines have drawn attention away from what he described as Harrison’s NFL Defensive MVP-caliber season. Harrison has already notched his third consecutive campaign with double-digit sacks as well as two interceptions and six forced fumbles with five games remaining in the regular season.

“He’s been a catalyst when we’ve needed him at just about every turn,” said Tomlin, whose team fields the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense. “He’s playing really good football.

“In regards to the penalties and fines, there’s no question it’s been troubling for him on a number of fronts. This is a very disciplined and regimented guy. He doesn’t like the perception of being a dirty player. He’s not by any stretch. He’s a football purist. But also, he’s concerned about hurting our team."

Harrison was previously fined for helmet hits on Cleveland wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi ($75,000) and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees ($20,000) as well as a $5,000 roughing penalty on Tennessee quarterback Vince Young. Harrison received notification Monday that his appeal of those fines was rejected, the Post-Gazette reported.

“He’s trying to play within the rules,” Tomlin said. “There’s just a lot of things that happen fast on an NFL field. Sometimes things get interpreted differently.

“We’re going to do the very best we can to try and play within the rules, play hard and play fair. That’s all we can control. We’re not going to get too out of whack when it comes to dealing with these things as long as I’m seeing guys doing everything within their power to play within the rules.”

One-third of Pittsburgh’s 72 penalties have come within the past two weeks. While 14 of those 24 infractions were committed on offense, there is a sentiment among Steelers defenders that they are being targeted by NFL officials under pressure from the league offense to better protect offensive players.

“Right now, it’s a game where the referees have to be on edge,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said after his team’s 14-penalty performance in a 35-3 victory over Oakland. “It’s kind of ‘Make the call first, review it later.’”

Even if there is truth to what Clark believes, Tomlin is working to tighten up his ship heading into Sunday’s game at Baltimore (8-3). The winner will move into sole possession of first place in the AFC North.

“We realize that if we go into Baltimore and we’re as heavily penalized as the past two weeks, chances are we’re not going to win the game,” Tomlin said. “Our preparation needs to be technique-oriented so we can be as clean as possible.”

Tomlin appears weekly during the regular season between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. ET Tuesdays with NFL contributor Adam Schein and Rich Gannon on Sirius NFL Radio, Channel 124.