Behind Enemy Lines: Steelers say call 'em both ways

The NFL may not be targeting the Steelers, but the Steelers certainly think they are, so in that sense the league has failed.

Forget the $125,000 in fines on linebacker James Harrison or the flurry of holding penalties on guard Chris Kemoeatu, the true evidence is what the on-field officials and Ray Anderson are not doing. Ben Roethlisberger continues to get beat up on the field and not only is no one paying the price with penalties, the league looks the other way when it comes to doling out fines.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who has been on the coaching staff since Roethlisberger's rookie season, said he can remember only three or four roughing the passer penalties called against defensive players for hits on Roethlisberger. There has been none this season. And he said one of them was not the time he was hit late in San Diego in 2005, causing him to miss the next game against Jacksonville with a sprained knee.

Neither was one called last Sunday in Buffalo when Bills Arthur Moats and Marcus Stroud sacked Roethlisberger and, after putting him on the ground and the play over, twisted his legs and shoved his face.

There was no flag, but Roethlisberger came away with a sore knee in addition to his earlier broken foot. According to Antwaan Randle El, the Steelers sent the video to the league office for review.

"I was laying on the ground and I was trying to get my knee out because it was starting to hurt," Roethlisberger said. "I was wondering why the scuffling was going on -- my linemen were jumping on guys. Then I watched the film and I noticed two guys came and hit me and that's why they came and scuffled.

"I don't know that they necessarily need to pile up when I'm down and everything, but it's on the officials; they call it the way they see it, I guess."

His teammates have more than noticed.

"The NFL is doing a wonderful job of protecting every quarterback but ours," said Randle El. "Some say it's because of the way he plays. But I think the extra stuff once he is down, once the whistle is blown has to stop.

"Because he is a big guy, because he's a strong guy, because he's a tough guy doesn't mean he should be subject to more punishment than anybody else."

Asked at first if he thought he was roughed up and no penalty called, Roethlisberger replied, "Which game?"

He has not complained about his treatment by the NFL and surely it cannot be more retribution by the league for what happened in Georgia in March.

"I don't know what it is," linebacker James Farrior said. "Your guess is as good as mine. ... It seems like it's a select few [the league protects] because I know our quarterback takes a lot of shots. He's banged up right now, I don't think they really do a great job of protecting him."

Caught between a rock and another rock

Some Steelers, most notably Farrior, have complained that their union has done nothing while the NFL doled out mounting fines against them they claim are unfair.

Ryan Clark, the team player rep to the NFLPA, did call the regional union rep this past week to complain, but he too understands that the union is caught in the middle.

The league is fining players to protect players.

"I think that's the thing is, their saying OK if the NFL wants to protect players and this is the way they're going about it, we have to stand by them and we have to ride with them," Clark said.

He noted that the union and executive director DeMaurice Smith want player safety and have trouble speaking out when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fines players for what he considers dangerous hits on other players.

"I think that's what [NFL executive director] De Smith and the guys are doing, taking a very non-adversarial attitude because a lot of pressure the NFL is feeling is from the PA, from the studies guys like Sean Morey are leading."

Clark, though, is telling his union leaders there is a difference between player safety and the NFL coming down on players for hits that have little to do with player safety. "In a sense these new hits and things that are happening now, I don't think they really go to player safety as much as that Week 6 [crackdown] head-to-head thing."

Inside the numbers with Hines Ward

It's been a strange season for Hines Ward, coming off one of his best games with 107 yards on seven receptions in Buffalo. It was his third 100-yard game. However, in his other eight games he has only 164 total yards, including the game against New England that ended for him after one quarter with a concussion.

"Circumstances, opportunities," Ward said. "My three attempts and Mike's three attempts are totally different."

Ward, who has led the team in receptions every year since 1999, is No. 1 again with 40 to Mike Wallace's 36. But Wallace averages 22 yards a catch, Ward 12.8, which is slightly higher than his career average of 12.2 entering his 13th season.

"The first four games we were last in the league in pass attempts," Ward said of the start without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "Last year, I had four 100-yard games and this year I have three, so I'm still on pace for that. The opportunities just haven't been there.

"But I don't get frustrated. When Mike's doing well and more and the more he progresses, the more he'll open up things underneath for Heath and me."

Tight end Heath Miller's receptions also have dropped precipitously from last season when he set a team record for his position with 76. He has 32, on pace for 46, which is more in line with what his annual totals before last season.

Finding a place and a role

Look for Isaac Redman to get more playing time and perhaps even a few more carries tonight and for the rest of the season. The coaches have been impressed both with Redman's running and his blitz protection, which is where he could get more time against the Ravens.

Redman carried once in the first half for Buffalo on short yardage, ran up the middle and it took several Bills to bring him down after a 1-yard gain. The Steelers went back to him on their winning drive in overtime, mixing it up with him and Rashard Mendenhall and Redman finished with 25 yards and on five carries.

He has 171 yards rushing and a 4.4-yard average even though he gets his chances mostly in short yardage when defenses line up to stop the run.

"I don't think anything has happened over the course of the season with him that's made me feel more comfortable," coach Mike Tomlin said of his confidence in Redman. "This guy has been earning his carries since he's been here. He's doing a nice job with the opportunities being given to him."

Ed Bouchette:

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