Thanks to a history littered with fines and a suspension for illegal hits, when Pittsburgh's James Harrison lit up Denver receiver Eric Decker in Sunday's Wild Card matchup, immediately some spectators cried foul. Decker immediately left the game and will reportedly miss Denver's next game with a sprained left MCL.
After reviewing the video, I simply can't agree that it was a dirty hit.
After Decker catches the ball you can see Harrison zero in on his waist. He then lowers himself and leans his shoulder in towards his upper thigh. In the process, Decker's knee collides with the Steelers' linebacker and there may have been some helmet-to-knee contact as well.
If you see the hit at full speed, it looks as if Harrison lowered his helmet directly into Decker's knee. Upon further review in slow motion, that simply isn't the case.
Harrison has been flagged and fined many times for his hits, but this one isn't something that should even be looked at. Decker was in the open field and Harrison deliberately went to tackle him below the waist, possibly to avoid going anywhere above that, and potentially risking a penalty.
At some point you have to stop waiting around for Harrison to do something dirty. Yes, his hits have been questionable in the past, but this one on Decker was clean. Receivers are exposed to getting lit up by linebackers when they go over the middle and had this been a hit from anyone but Harrison, no one would be questioning it.
Harrison made a good, clean football play, but unfortunately Decker's knee was injured in the process.