AFC North: The Division Of Dirty Players?

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04: Brandon Tate #19 of the Cincinnati Bengals is hit after a first quarter catch by Ryan Clark #25 and Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 4, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

As Bengals fans, we often like to criminalize players from the other AFC North divisional teams, calling them "cheap-shot artists" or "dirtbags" with reckless abandon. There are a few usual suspects that we target: James Harrison of the Steelers, T.J. Ward of the Browns and Terrell Suggs of the Ravens. Fans of those other teams could argue that a player like Reggie Nelson was the Bengals' biggest offender.

Interestingly enough, we came across some information on last year's fines that were divvied out that could support some of these stereotypes that we have about some of the Bengals' rivals. On this list were only the offenders that had fines of $15,000 or more. Some of the reasons behind these big fines were the fact that the players on this list were repeat offenders. With the NFL's recent initiative to ensure player safety, these major fines were given out around the league for rough hits. Some of these fines were legitimate, while others could be deemed as questionable.

From the Steelers, the biggest single punishment given out was expectedly to linebacker James Harrison for his brutal helmet-to-helmet hit against Browns quarterback, Colt McCoy. That hit led to Harrison being suspended for a game, with that missed check likely surpassing the other fines listed. The other surprising Steeler offender was safety Ryan Clark. In consecutive weeks, Clark amassed $55,000 in fines for back-to-back unnecessary roughness penalties. Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor both received fines for their Week One matchup, with Polamalu getting busted for a horse collar tackle and Taylor getting his comeuppance from a head-butt.

The Ravens also made the list with many of their big names as well. Haloti Ngata got a $15,000 fine in Week Three for a helmet-to-the-back hit on the opposing quarterback. Ray Lewis received a $20,000 fine for an unnecessary roughness penalty in Week Eight, adding to their resume of questionable play. Linebacker Brendon Ayanbendejo was also fined $15,000 in Week One thanks to his horse-collar tackle.

By comparison, the Bengals only had two players on this list: Dan Skuta and Chris Crocker. Both were busted after the Week 15 game, with Skuta getting popped for $15,000 for a blindside block on a special teams play, and Crocker dinged for $15,000 on a roughing the passer penalty. Reggie Nelson didn't make this list of expensive fines, which may come as a surprise to some with his numerous penalties in 2011 for vicious hits.

Surprisingly, nobody from the Cleveland Browns made this list. That's not to say that no one on the team received a fine in 2011, they just didn't receive the hefty ones that the other players in the AFC North did. Regardless, this list just perpetuates image of the physical nature of the League and, more specifically, the AFC North division. Unfortunately, it also perpetuates the image of the Steelers and Ravens being somewhat dirty teams.

With the recent buzz about "Bounty Gate" and the New Orleans Saints, I was curious to see how many offenders they had on this list. Safety Roman Harper made the list late in the season, with multiple fines accrued for hits in a single game. I had figured that there would be more offenders from the Saints, but they weren't as guilty as the other AFC North teams.

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