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Steelers OLB Harrison will flop if its needed

| Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison was assured by officials during the preseason that if he was held during a game that a penalty flag would be thrown.

Call him naive, but Harrison believed what the officials were telling him ... until the holds kept coming and few flags followed.

So to combat that, Harrison decided to take matters into his own hands - or at least that's what Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas believes.

After the Steelers lost to the Browns a few weeks ago, Thomas said Harrison is getting a reputation for flopping when the outside linebacker thinks he is being held.

"It's something Harrison has been doing," Thomas told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It seems like he didn't do it last year. Now, he's kind of perfected it. I don't know if he has a reputation yet, but I know after this year he will."

The only two holding calls against Thomas this year were against Harrison.

"Basically, as you push him by, he'll just throw his arms up in the air and his feet and try to make it look like you threw him down," Thomas said.

Harrison did not deny Thomas' allegation but instead explained his mindset.

"Tell Joe he can say whatever he wants to say, if you hold me, I will do whatever I can to get that call," Harrison said Wednesday, making his first public comment on the issue.

Harrison said that the lack of holding calls are getting worse compared to a year ago.

"I bet I can go to the league office, and you can (find) at least three or four holds a game (on film) over the course of a season," Harrison said. "What's that — 50-something holds a year that they didn't call?

"What else you want me to do• I am having guys grabbing me around my neck and slamming me to the ground, and they are not called. They said they were going to enforce that rule."

Defensive end Brett Keisel, who plays on the same side of the Steelers defense as Harrison, doesn't agree with Thomas' assessment.

"(Harrison) doesn't flop," Keisel said. "He gets held every play. He may get one call a game. Joe is the worst holder in the league, so I don't know what he is talking about."

Whether it is him getting held or seeing more double-teams, Harrison's numbers have evaporated over the past month.

Through the first 10 games, Harrison had 10 sacks and 18 hurries. Since them, he has no sacks and only four hurries.

"He is getting triple-teamed and chipped and things like that," Keisel said. "He is a great player. That is why offenses do what they do."

Harrison, who set a franchise record with 16 sacks in 2008, isn't worried about his decreased stats.

"It is more than a compliment than anything," Harrison said. "They feel like they need two or three guys to block me. If you do that, then they are going to leave somebody else on the back end, and that's (fellow outside linebacker LaMarr) Woodley, and he has done a great job."

Woodley has 6.5 sacks over the past five games and has taken the team lead in the category away from Harrison. Woodley has 91/2 of his 111/2 sacks over the past seven games and has at least a half sack in each of those games.

"Other people have to step up, and that has been Woodley," Keisel said.

Woodley, meanwhile, came to Harrison's defense on the flopping allegation.

"Maybe when they hold him, it isn't a flop," he said. "Maybe they are holding on to him and pulling him down."

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