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Gene Wang
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Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of detractors around the NFL accusing them of dirty tactics. That's just one of the many subplots confronting the team as it prepares to try to win a record sixth Super Bowl.

Wide receiver Hines Ward continues to be the main focus of opponents' ire because of his block on Cincinnati's Keith Rivers this season. Safety Ryan Clark also has come under scrutiny for a hit on Baltimore running back Willis McGahee in this season's AFC title game. And don't forget wide receiver Limas Sweed's block on Corey Ivy in that same game.

Based on those hits, you can't call the Steelers dirty. Only one of those hits -- that being Clark's -- could be deemed illegal, and even that's debatable. Just check the video footage.

Let's begin with Ward's hit on Rivers. Yes it caught Rivers by surprise. Yes it broke the rookie linebacker's jaw and ended his season. But it wasn't dirty.

Ward hit Rivers on his left shoulder and arm. He didn't make helmet-to-helmet contact. He didn't come close to blocking Rivers from behind or go for the knees.

Sweed's hit on Ivy also was violent but well within the rules. Sweed lowered his head before contact to make sure he got under Ivy's helmet and delivered the blow to the cornerback's chest. We're not talking Jack Tatum here.

Clark's hit on McGahee falls into more of a gray area. Technically it was helmet-to-helmet, but the hit doesn't necessarily presume Clark had malicious intent.
Looking at the replay, it's clear Clark was trying to separate McGahee from the ball with as much force as possible. Clark led with his right shoulder, and his helmet happened to collide with McGahee's.

McGahee wasn't in a vulnerable position. In fact he was running forward with the ball. It's not like McGahee was hit low as he was stepping out of bounds.

Pittsburgh plays a rugged brand of football. That's the tradition of a franchise that includes some of the most feared hitters of all-time. Don't call the Steelers dirty simply because this current crop of players is advancing that legacy.

By Gene Wang  |  January 29, 2009; 7:49 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Gene Wang , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Winning Can Be Dirty | Next: They're Physical, Not Dirty

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Dirty players? What about dirty ads? Why do parents watching with young kids have to explain erectile dysfunction ads on Sunday afternoons?
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Posted by: Communique21 | January 29, 2009 3:58 PM

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