Tensions in Sunday's Ravens-Steelers rivalry flared up when outside linebacker Terrell Suggs tackled running back LeGarrette Blount from behind midway through the third quarter.
Blount was stuffed by a pair of Ravens defenders, but he was trying to push his way forward to pick up extra yards. That's when Suggs came from behind and delivered a hit to Blount's hips that collapsed his legs and brought down the running back.
The hit came before the officials blew the whistle to call the play dead, but Suggs was issued a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. After the game, Blount said that Suggs is "known to be a dirty player," and several other Steelers criticized the Pro Bowl defender.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh addressed the play Monday after watching it again on tape.
"Terrell Suggs is a very respected player in this league," Harbaugh said. "He's respected by the coaches. He's respected by the players. I've never, ever heard anybody say anything about Terrell Suggs not being a clean, tough player. And he was attempting to make a tackle.
"As a defensive player, your responsibility is to get the guy on the ground. And that's what he was trying to do."
Harbaugh's response echoed what Suggs told reporters in his post-game interview.
"He was running. He was still up and moving the pile," Suggs said. "I assessed the play and that was the only way I could get him down without him gaining more yards. I was just trying to get him down. I wasn't trying to get him hurt. I was just trying to get a big guy down."
Rivalry matchups between the Ravens and Steelers are known as physical contests that have a tendency to get chippy, and the hit by Suggs set off a shoving match between the two sides.
Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil was issued an unnecessary roughness penalty two plays later after another scrum involving multiple players. Referee Bill Vinovich eventually separated the two teams and had lengthy conversations with both head coaches to diffuse the situation.
The Ravens were ultimately flagged for four personal foul/unnecessary roughness penalties in the loss, and Harbaugh stressed after the game that players have to "walk away" to avoid those kinds of flags.
"I'm against anything that costs us 15 yards. That's not good," Harbaugh reiterated Monday.
"That's just not something that's going to help us win the game if we have 15-yard penalties. They call it. We have to react to it. We don't call things. We have to understand what is going to be called, and whether we agree or not really doesn't matter. Our responsibility is not the officials."
The Ravens finished the game with a season-high 10 penalties for 108 yards.
Baltimore has been one of the most disciplined teams on the penalty front this season, and they came into Sunday's game with the seventh-fewest penalties in the NFL. But the penalties have been trending the wrong way recently, as officials have flagged Baltimore 34 times the last four games compared to 21 penalties in the first five matchups.
"That's just too many," Harbaugh said. "It's too many, and the ones that I don't like are the foolish penalties. Those are the ones that I don't have any taste for. You have to be smart and you can't put your team in jeopardy. You can disagree all you want, but he has the yellow flag and he's going to call it the way he wants to call it."