PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been suspended for one game without pay for his hit last week on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.
NFL Executive Vice President Ray Anderson said Tuesday the suspension is the result of Harrison's fifth illegal hit against a quarterback in the past three seasons.
Harrison, who can appeal, laid a helmet-to-facemask hit on McCoy during the Steelers' 14-3 victory over the Browns. The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was penalized for roughing the passer on the play and said Monday he believed the hit didn't warrant further punishment.
If the suspension isn't overturned or reduced on appeal, Harrison won't be allowed to be at team facilities until next Tuesday, Dec. 20.
Coach Mike Tomlin said the team respects the league's decision while acknowledging Harrison's play was a foul.
"We're disappointed for James because we know how hard he's worked to play within the rules," Tomlin said. "We accept the judgment rendered by the league office and we'll move forward."
He is the second player suspended by the league this season for on-the-field conduct. Detroit Lions NT Ndamokung Suh was suspended two games for stomping on an opponent last month.
The league says Harrison was fined six times in 2009 and 2010. He was fined $125,000 last year for a series of hits, growing so frustrated at one point he threatened to retire.
Instead, he returned and has remained effective this season while keeping it clean. He has 10 sacks despite missing a month with a fractured right orbital bone. The hit on McCoy marked the first time this season he'd been flagged for an illegal hit.