Elam had drawn criticism from the Packers, particularly quarterback Aaron Rodgers, for a hit that didn't draw a penalty and is expected to sideline Cobb for at least a few weeks with a right knee injury.
"I think Matt made a tackle," Harbaugh said Monday. "He was scrambling to try to catch up with that route as best as he could. To say that it could have been artistically palatable is pretty hard for me to understand."
Elam did nothing illegal and the NFL has made it a major point of enforcement to heavily fine players for hits in the head and neck area.
Elam reacted quickly to the play, but Rodgers saw it much differently.
"I just felt like from my vantage point he had plenty of time to not take out a guy's legs in that situation," Rodgers said. "I think he could have hit him in the proper hitting zone and that's what I told him. The other safety came over and actually made a very knowledgeable point, which I appreciated a little
intelligent answer back and forth about some of the issues defensive players have to deal with [trying to hit] the target area. I totally understand that and get that."
Rodgers was referring to strong safety James Ihedigbo, who also stuck up for Elam on Sunday in the locker room following the game as the first-round draft pick declined to comment.
"Yeah, on the hit, it's part of the rules," Ihedigbo told The Baltimore Sun. "We try to play within the rules of football. That's on [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell. He wants us to hit low, we'll hit low, and guys will keep getting injured.
"God forbid, but that's been taking place with [Miami Dolphins tight end] Dustin Keller being out for the season. God forbid, I don't know what Randall Cobb suffered, but I'm praying for him because it's unfortunate."
From Harbaugh's standpoint, there wasn't anything different that Elam could have done as he broke up the pass on third down with a shoulder hit to Cobb's knee that prevented a first down.
"That's a fast route and they ran great route there and Aaron made a good, quick throw in there and Matt is doing the best he can to try to stop that play," Harbaugh said. "So, I have no idea what he's talking about."