The League


Do the Steelers Play Dirty?

From Limas Sweed to Ryan Clark and Hines Ward, are the Pittsburgh Steelers a dirty team?

Posted by Emil Steiner on January 29, 2009 7:22 AM

crtjr: bmoreRavensRock and other Raven's crybaby sour grapes fans and other sorted losers. There is a picture of Bart Scott with his head buried in...

maxfli68: One of you say that Hines was properly targeted? That is why the team for which you cheer is at home right now. See, no one talked trash whe...

kevinschmidt: Who plays dirty? Which team in the NFL has the most penalties against them? It's not Pittsburgh. In any one play, any team can get away ...

Make a Comment  |  All Comments (56)

greg8770 Author Profile Page :

It is ridiculous to say the Steelers are a “dirty team.” What’s wrong with a WR throwing a block? Who would anyone rather have on their team, a T.O. pre-madonna or a guy who is looking to help the team and has his head in the game even if the ball is going to someone else? Tough yes, dirty, no. Skins fans should remember they let Ryan Clark go, wouldn’t you appreciate his style of defense now?

Sonyask Author Profile Page :

Not a chance. Simply a great team.

thadude33 Author Profile Page :

No such thing as a dirty team in football. The NFL, with its ridiculous and convoluted rules, has taken much of the agression out of the game in the name of safety. The result is a watered down game few former players recognize. Every recent Superbowl winner has had a hard-hitting defense and tough offensive line. You simply can't be a champion unless you smack people around.

wapoisamilquetoastrag Author Profile Page :

The Steelers play what is left of old-fashioned football and old-fashioned football is violent and wonderful.

Look at the rule changes over the last 30 years. The result is the almost complete pussification of American football. In another few decades the players will wear tutus and drink tea in the huddle. Write it down.

rusty3 Author Profile Page :

One would assume that this topic would draw the wanna-be thugs who glorify violence. My advice: join the army, the police force, a rugby league and get a life. "Old fashioned" football contained a lot of cheap hits and a lot of unnecessary injuries. "Pussification" is not a word I would use to describe the current state of professional football--maybe it is a word that the violence-lovers fears will be applied to them if they don't keep us a macho front.

jlc7ca Author Profile Page :

To all of you Steeler-Haters it's called SMASH-MOUTH-FOOTBALL. Read it and Weep....

bmoreRavensRock Author Profile Page :

Are the Steeler's dirty?... On Defense No, but on Offense, absolutely! Hey, I'm a fan of the Ravens, so no complaints on the Steeler's D, but on offense, the recievers "block" guys from the Blind-side by going after their heads (helmet-to-helmet or elbow/shoulder-pad to helmet). A hard hit to the body is cool, but a blind-side to the head is a NO-GO. I blame opposing NFL teams for not doing the baseball/retaliation thing.

BeauTochs Author Profile Page :

Are the Pittsburgh Steelers dirty? I don't know, but they were given the SB XL title despite not having earned it on the field in a game throughout which they were thoroughly outplayed (worst, most blatantly biased officiating I've *ever* seen in a football game). I certainly wouldn't give the Steelers the benefit of the doubt...

verycreative Author Profile Page :

I have seen NFL players purposely hit opponents with their helmets. I have no problem with clean hard hitting but I do have a problem with players making career or life threatening hits to try to win games by knocking their opponents out of the game.

whodeykm Author Profile Page :

They're dirty for sure. from taking out palmer's knee a few years back to the numerous cheap shots Hines Ward takes (most of which are away from the play), to having their team physician get busted for smuggling steroids/HGH, they're dirty to the core.

If DBs could cheapshot Ward like he cheapshots them, I bet you he wouldn't be doing that stuff. Someone needs to knock that stupid smile off his face.

LIVNLOW Author Profile Page :

A helmet to helmet hit puts both players in danger and in most cases is not intentional. Why hit someone full speed with your head and risk injuring yourself when a solid body hit would yield the same result. The Steelers have such a national appeal that lots of fans of losing teams love to just whine and cry about certain things to make them feel better about why their team is at home watching the Super Bowl just like they are.

xSamplex Author Profile Page :

I am a Patriot fan, and I have no issue with the way the Steelers play. They are a solid, consistently good organization.

LegallyMurphy Author Profile Page :

Steelers come real close to crossing that line. I think a few times they have. The Clark hit on Welker and McGiniss crossed the line. Frankly Palomalu scares the bejesus out of me. I think he shouldn't be allowed near people for fear of decapitation. Ward is the dirty one though. He takes pleasure in hurting others

Rocco32 Author Profile Page :

What is the basis of this statement?? Is it because football players are "hitting" each other? I play semi-pro football and love to play against a hard hitting, aggressive, play until the whistle blows type of team...which is exactly what type of franchise the Steelers are! And here's another question....what the heck is a "cheapshot"? There's a legal hit and an illegal hit in football...the illegal ones get penalized and the legal ones make it onto a highlight reel!

As we say on the field..."keep your head on a swivel"

bcook1 Author Profile Page :

i've seen them get away with more this year than any other team has... i don't blame the team, i blame the refs and the league for turning a blind eye

Rocco32 Author Profile Page :

Also, if you take a look at the film who hits who helmet to helmet...McGiniss led with his head, Clarke led with his shoulder. The film won't lie. In my opinion people have just gotten used to "conservative football" as opposed to smash mouth lay it all on the line football.

jaho Author Profile Page :

Consider this, the Steelers play in the NFL. So it's not like they are a bunch of men running roughshod over Pop Warner opponents. Every team has a sideline chocked full of highly talented, aggressive players that can try to match the Steelers hit for hit. The Steelers-Ravens games this year were just fantastic, and props to the hated Ravens for standing in there and fighting it out. (We'd all be sitting here accusing Baltimore's D of being "dirty" had things ended out different two weeks ago.)

The NFL has actively worked to create parity and the Steelers have consistently risen above it through a tradition of team aggressiveness, particularly on defense. They have ownership that values loyalty and consistency. They have coaches that play an aggressive style of ball and a front office that drafts and trades accordingly. It's not dirty. It's a thing of beauty.

ChoppinBroccoli Author Profile Page :

Well, they won their last Super Bowl after a pretty obvious (despite their protestations) intentional direct hit on Carson Palmer's knee in the first round of the playoffs......

However, I don't think they're exceptionally dirty. Trop P jumping over the top on every short yardage play certainly isn't dirty, but it's silly and doesn't help the defense much.

eagle13356 Author Profile Page :

I don't know if they are dirty as a "team" but the hit by Clark on Willis MaGahee was clearly helmet to helmet, intentional and that is not only dirty but dangerous. The very fact that the question of their being "dirty" is being asked certainly means lots of people do wonder. JSG

cregre1 Author Profile Page :

What a lame question. Must be a Raven's fan.

bkhoward Author Profile Page :

The Steelers are not a dirty team. I hope the Redskins start playing just as dirty if that's what dirty looks like. The 70s Raiders -- dirty. Romanowski -- Dirty, Dirty!

mahaseer Author Profile Page :

What a stupid, nancy question!! This is football, not a teddy bear's picnic. If you can't stand the heat, get your pansy butt outta the Steeler's kitchen!!

wapoisamilquetoastrag Author Profile Page :

I hate to tell modern Americans this but life is finite. In geological or especially cosmological terms we are all already dead. It could happen at any time or at any place.

So how do you want to go out?

The Steelers want to go out fighting.

Conversely, "men" like Rusty3 apparently wants to go out bitching and whining.

We all make choices and, unless we are corporate executives or government officials, we live with the consequences.

PghGuy1 Author Profile Page :

Good hard play is not dirty play. Bone jarring hits and hustle is what most teams lack. Reckless abandon causing 2 or 3 questionable hits over the course of 18 games is a pretty good percentage. Fancy. Fast Break. Showtime. West Coast. Leave this to the NBA.

PghGuy1 Author Profile Page :

Troy Polamalu's over the top attempt secured a fourth down stop in the AFC Championship Game. And, the same guy's antics secured the win with a pick 6 in the final minutes.

GordonShumway Author Profile Page :

You bet!!! It isn't anything about sportsmanship or pride anymore, it is only about the almighty dollar. Cheap shots have been bread and butter for so long, it looks normal now. Screw the Steelers!

79Pirates Author Profile Page :

If the Ravens were set to play on Sunday, you would be worshiping their "hard nosed, intimidating defense." A D made up of a few criminals, a murderer, and a history of dirty play and brutal physicality. Bounty anyone?

The Steelers are simply playing hard nosed football, eschewing the dainty attitudes many have taken to the league (T.O., C. Johnson, LT...)

greasychickenyum Author Profile Page :

Why don't you ask Carson Palmer if the Steelers are dirty? Rarely have I ever seen a team play dirtier than the Steelers do. But hey, what do you expect? It's downwind of Cleveland and Detroit. Of course it's dirty.

A Concerned Bengal Fan

mclovin Author Profile Page :

Only in DC would people ask if the Steelers are dirty. Is Congress dirty? Is that bail-out dirty? How dirty is big government? Street shootings? Only in the Post...

dgblues Author Profile Page :

There are no dirty Steelers. Only dirty inane question-posers named Emil just trying to gin up controversy where there is none.

Silverback-92 Author Profile Page :

What a ridiculous question ... can you say Super Bowl hype?

The Stillers are hard-hitting, yes, but there are no Terrell Suggs-type players on it. Hines "57" Ward punishes DBs but last time I checked, football is a physical game. The Ryan Clark hit on Willis "what's my name" McGahee was legal, and the NFL saw it as such.

Silverback-92 Author Profile Page :

What a ridiculous comment ... can you say Super Bowl hype/controversy?

The Stillers are hard hitting, yes, but have no Terrell Suggs-type players. Hines "57" Ward lays the wood to DBs as regular as the sun rising each day but last time I checked, football is a physical game. Oh, and Ryan Clark's hit on Willis "what's my name" McGahee was legal, and the NFL saw it as such.

makalu Author Profile Page :

Ryan Clark, with hits against Wes Welker and Willis McGahee were delivered with an intent to injure. While technically legal, Steelers are too often dishing out the equivalent of blind side cheep shots. What goes around comes around- lets see what Steelers fans say when one of their players go down to a “good hit.”

raosdc Author Profile Page :

The Steelers are one of the classiest, toughest, best run organizations not only in football but in all of professional sports. The team plays the game the way it's meant to be played--hard, physical and with 100% effort. That's not dirty, it's merely an awesome football team playing a violent sport.

officermancuso Author Profile Page :

As a lifelong 54 year old Steeler fan who watches every game every week, I'm sorry to have to say that yes, they often play dirty.

Carson Palmer knocked out in '05. The Ravens running back floored by a flagrant helmet to helmet hit in '08.

The Steelers are going to play just as physical as the NFL allows - and in my humble opinion, the NFL allows dirty play.

When an NFL player dies during a game as a result of one of these hits, you *may* see reform. Or not.

And I can't help allowing this to escape my keyboard - GO STEELERS!

damannion Author Profile Page :

I can't stand the Stillers, but no, they don't play dirty.

officermancuso Author Profile Page :

My dad was a pretty good football player, all 5' 7" of him, and one of the last things he told me before he was gone is "life is seldom black and white, is full of shades of gray".

ConradY Author Profile Page :

This "article" is a desperate attempt to drum up a story and fill space during Super Bow Hype Week. If the Steelers (or any other team, for that matter) were playing dirty, the columnist could rattle off a half-dozen incidents without even trying. But they can't. This is just a lame attempt to drum up controversy, and let us, the readers, write the story for them, instead of the writers doing it themselves. Go back to the drawing board; try again.

Anadromous2 Author Profile Page :

Let me put it this way. I expect that Larry Fitzgerald will be knocked out of the game by halftime.

I hope the Cardinals win on bad calls by the officials. It's a revenge thing for Super Bowl XL.

a_skeptic Author Profile Page :

Um. . . simply. . . YUP!!! Ask Willis how clean the play was that almost left him headless. And to be credited a turnover after that?!! I'm not even a Raven's fan and that ticked me off. How do you go from earning a 15 yard penalty and being removed from the game for such a hit, to instead getting the ball in great position for the score after that treachery? I hope the Cardinals smack them in the teeth!

hands1010 Author Profile Page :

The Steelers are a great hard-hitting team rich in tradition. They leave it on the field each and every game! I love the way Pittsburgh represent the NFL and the city of Pittsburgh. Viewers will change their opinions on Super Bowl Sunday.

to_rhodes Author Profile Page :

The numbers show that the Steelers are probably cleaner than most: in the 2008 regular season, the Steelers were penalized 11 negligible yards more than their opponents (812 vs. 801). Summing up 2007, 2006, and 2005, the Steelers were penalized 14% less than their opponents (2138 yards vs. 2449). Someone with more time could find out exactly what the penalties for, but it looks like the Steelers either play as close to the rules as anyone else or they use magical mind control on the officials.

John721 Author Profile Page :

This question could only be asked by someone writing for the Washington Post who is trying to start a controversy. Guess what, you will succeed. The obvious reference is the Clark hit on McGhahee and even the Ravens now say it was a hard but clean hit. I suggest you read Michael Wilbon's article on Dan Rooney and then come back and ask if Rooney would tolerate "dirt" play. If you really want to understand why the Post would write something like this then read Eugene Robinson's article today. Anyone that disagrees with Obama, as the media swoons in front of him, will be castigated. Just as the stimulus bill is loaded with pork that will not stimulate anything this question is nothing more than a pig in a poke.

john8516 Author Profile Page :

CONRADY (11:01pm) - You hit the nail on the head. If the Steelers win, a few hours after the game this column will ask whether the Super Bowl champs are criminals because a Steelers player was arrested in Alexandria. Then you'll have to go to other sources to find out that the player was put on IR in training camp.

Oh, by the way, the Crime Watch needs to be updated. See I'm sure the updates can be copied and pasted.

austin0428 Author Profile Page :

Even as a Bengals fan still bitter about Kimo VonKneeRoller taking out Carson Palmer in the 2005 playoffs (admittedly, by accident), I can't call the Steelers dirty. Just extremely physical.

cts518 Author Profile Page :

I am a die hard Redskins fan. So I am not biased. The Steelers play good defensive football. Their playing is not dirty, just hard. If you want to see dirty...try looking at the Ravens "DIRTY BIRDS"

franthefan Author Profile Page :

This is a ridiculous question. The Steelers aren'tdirty. I'm a Ravens season ticket holder and the games we play against the Steelers are some of the most brutal I've ever seen, and I go back to the days of Johnny U and the Colts when the game was REALLY dirty.

Like the Ravens players, I don't like the Steelers, but I sure respect them.

What's the matter CTS518? Still smarting from that smackdown we gave your Deadskins this year?

LogicDude Author Profile Page :

"Dirty" is leading a tackle attempt WITH your helmet aimed at the other player's head. The hit on MacGahee was done with the Steeler leading with his shoulder; the movment and turn by MacGahee led to the helmet contact. THAT can't be helped by the defensive player. The dirty players I've seen in the league are the likes of Dawkins (Eagles) and Romanowski (Broncos/Raiders). I've rarely ever seen a player intentionally try to take another out. As for Hines Ward, the hit in the play-off game where the Raven player held his leg and twisted it on the ground? THAT was dirty.

dalee16 Author Profile Page :

Sounds like you are running out of topics for the Super Bowl, maybe the NFL should return to having the Super Bowl one week after championship games and we could just focus on the game

johnboy1948 Author Profile Page :

I believe that the Steelers are a good old fashioned football team that play the game (a violent game) the way it should be played. Not dirty just tough.

maxfli68 Author Profile Page :

Many players around the league will tell you Hines Ward is a dirty player, but dirty players can be dealt with. Ward was probably targeted and knocked out of his last playoff game in the first quarter by the Baltimore Ravens. But Ward hardly epitomizes the whole team which plays good, hardnosed football. That said, I think the increasing violence of the game will eventually cause more severe injuries and possibly deaths. My sense is as long as ESPN is obscessed with showing violent hits in lieu of good football analyses the game will become even more violent and dangerous.

dhoyles Author Profile Page :

LogicDude is spot on. Aiming your helmet at another players helmet is dirty under any definition. It's illegal, and anyone who has even played Pop Warner knows that that can kill someone and get you killed. Watch the replays, they aim their helmets like missiles at the head, with their head down. Dirty - Dangerous - Deadly!

kuumbaman2000 Author Profile Page :

To even raise this as an issue makes very little sense. It can be that the Steelers are one of the most popular teams ever. A program on NPR explained the phenomena by noting the migration of steel workers away from the Pittsburgh area, post industrial boom. These people changed their addresses but not their allegiance to their team. Dirty team? These days we TIVO our own instant replays game after game. We see more than any other sports fans have ever seen. There has never been this level of scrutiny from multiple angles even. I can say that, as a member of Steelers Nation, that we take the good and the bad of our team. We are family. We love them, win or lose. We will have down years, but don't expect any divorce! Don't hate, participate!

crtjr Author Profile Page :

bmoreRavensRock and other Raven's crybaby sour grapes fans and other sorted losers. There is a picture of Bart Scott with his head buried into Ben Roethlisberger's chest and Scotts feet off the ground and Ben about to get drilled into the ground. This is called pile driving and on the QB is illegal. It was not called and we never complained. When a defensive player is CHASING a play and Hines Ward knocks him off of his feet these same Ravens call it dirty and unfair. You relish hard hitting football when it's the Ravens doing the hitting but when it's the Steelers hitting the Ravens you cry foul and dirty when there's NOTHING dirty about it. I've never seen so many haters against one team in a while and some of you really take the cake...

One of you say that Hines was properly targeted? That is why the team for which you cheer is at home right now. See, no one talked trash when Landry was hurt trying to make a tackle on ex Raven's RB for the Browns... BUT, when Rashard Mendenhall's shoulder was broken by Ray Lewis, he [Lewis] BRAGGED and laughed about it in an SI article... and you have the nerve to talk?!? You're just GREEN with envy, and what's worse is that you and your selective memory couldn't care less about the facts.

It's sorry to display such poor sportsmanship. I bet you are the kind to fight with the other parent's and your kids little league games aren't you.

maxfli68 Author Profile Page :

One of you say that Hines was properly targeted? That is why the team for which you cheer is at home right now. See, no one talked trash when Landry was hurt trying to make a tackle on ex Raven's RB for the Browns... BUT, when Rashard Mendenhall's shoulder was broken by Ray Lewis, he [Lewis] BRAGGED and laughed about it in an SI article... and you have the nerve to talk?!? You're just GREEN with envy, and what's worse is that you and your selective memory couldn't care less about the facts.


The fact is it was reported in several newspapers and in post game interviews that Mendenhall was trash talking to Ray Lewis and other Raven defensive players before he was knocked out of that game. Why a rookie do that? Maybe he's an idiot. Who knows. You drafted this fool. But that's your explanation. Ward is always targeted by AFC North teams, and for good reason. It's called payback, and it resumes in September. Get used to it and quit whining. This ain't badminton. Go Cardinals!

kevinschmidt Author Profile Page :

Who plays dirty?

Which team in the NFL has the most penalties against them?

It's not Pittsburgh.

In any one play, any team can get away with playing dirty, but not consistently throughout the game without being penalized heavily, and most likely, finally losing the game.

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