Not By The Hair Of My Chinny, Chin, Chin ... Please - By John Smathers

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Now I understand why Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill never had aspirations (to my knowledge) of playing in the NFL.

You know these guys. They like 'Legs,' 'TV Dinners' and 'Cheap Sunglasses.' They're sharp-dressed men.

They're two-thirds of ZZ Top. More specifically, they're the two-thirds with the long beards.

And now maybe you understand, too, because as we were all reminded Sunday, hair is part of the uniform.

Don't get me wrong. I get a kick out of Troy Polamalu's hair. I don't think there is another defensive player in the league that is more fun to watch when he's running with the football,l and his mane is part of that. The hair makes him one of the most identifiable players in the league.

Apparently, it also make him one of the easiest players in the league to tackle. Ask Larry Johnson (who might have thought twice, you would think, after Arizona's Antrel Rolle brought him down by his facemask last week). He knows if not for that hair, he wasn't going to keep Polamalu from scoring. So he did what was perfectly fine under NFL rules. He tackled Polamalu by the hair, because hair is part of the uniform and there is no rule that says you can't do it.

However, we found out for the first time that yanking a player back up by the hair is a violation of the rules, and Johnson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

But that's not what this is about. Either a rule needs to be made that makes it a penalty to tackle by the hair, or, if hair is really part of the uniform and the league can regulate uniforms, then why doesn't the league just regulate hair length?

Yeah, I know, sounds crazy. That's all we need in this world is more regulation. But what I saw Sunday really gave me pause. I know you saw the same thing I did, and if the thought of Polamalu motionless on the ground and getting hauled off on a stretcher, never to play football again, didn't cross your mind, then you must have already been drunk on Steelers victory, or beer. I certainly thought about it and the slow motion replays from every angle only supported my worst thoughts. Thank God he got right back up, even if it was with Johnson's unwanted help.

I don't like to think too much during football games, but that got me thinking some more. If hair is part of the uniform, one can only assume that the concept pertains not only to hair from under the helmet, but also to facial hair. Why not? I'm not talking about mustaches and goatees. If you can get a hold of those, you're going to get a facemask flag anyway. I'm talking about ZZ Top facial hair.

OK, so I'm not aware of anyone in the league with a beard like that either. But in theory, it's possible. So let's say some running back gets their beard grabbed and it's used to yank them to the ground. Permissible under the rules? Apparently. Just as dangerous as doing the same thing with his facemask? I would argue that it's even more dangerous, because at least the helmet twists and gives a little.

Hey, I'm just saying. Maybe I'm using a goofy example to make a point, but what I saw Sunday looked pretty damn dangerous.

I'm not suggesting a ban on beards. But the league is supposed to be concerned with the safety of its players, right? Hence, the facemask penalty.

I am suggesting the rules committee take a look at the hair issue. It should be illegal to drag someone down in that fashion. Watch the Polamalu-Johnson highlight clip again if you don't agree.

Or the league needs to regulate hair length. It should be under the helmet. Or it needs to be legal for a player to grease their hair (which would make for great additions to NFL Films, I'm sure). Or would that be like greasing your uniform, which I believe is against the rules. Isn't it?

Why can't the league just simplify the issue, do the right thing and make it possible for Gibbons and Hill to play in the NFL without fear of having their necks broken? Or maybe Polamalu should just visit the barber without having to tell him.

Call me kooky, but I would rather see Polamalu cut his hair short than to see his career cut short.

Other things from Sunday:

I love the NFL Network, but I'm watching much less of it these days. Someone came up with the brilliant idea of bringing Deion Sanders aboard for NFL Gameday. Now the network has two loudmouths I can't stand: Sanders and Sterling Sharpe. I can't stomach the sound of their voices as it is and I really can't accept having highlight narration and analysis (or what passes for analysis from Sharpe) shouted at me, something that I believe was invented by Chris "Please Tone it Down" Berman and ratcheted up to intolerable levels by Berman-wannabe Robin Cook back in her ESPN days STOP YELLING AT ME IT'S JUST A GUY RUNNING WITH A FOOTBALL.

So Carson Palmer isn't Jesus after all. To hear all the experts at ESPN, I thought he could walk on water now, that he'd achieved some miraculous level of invincibility, a la Tom Brady.

Like Brady, he could will his team back to win late in the fourth quarter, no matter what the odds. Well, he couldn't get it done Sunday against the Buccaneers. I know, he had only 30 seconds left in the game to get the Bengals in field goal range and he was starting from his own 28. But as we're all reminded every day, he has the best receiving corps in football and he had three timeouts. And Jesus couldn't get them in field goal range? What?

Palmer was outplayed by the kid from Seton-La Salle, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. I love it.

Steve McNair is still Steve McNair (even if he didn't realize it after his concussion Sunday) and Kyle Boller is still Kyle Boller. Sure he threw three touchdowns against Carolina. And he lost.

What is it with prima donna wide receivers and showing up their assistant coaches? Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens are cut from the same cloth.

If anyone has seen Herm Edwards or Marvin Lewis smile, I'd like you to prove it to me. I dare you. Herm didn't look happy when Bill Cowher decided to go for the touchdown on fourth down (Najeh Davenport's touchdown), but then Herm never looks happy. You would think getting away from the Jets would have cheered him up, too.

Speaking of that touchdown, do you think there was more to it than just practicing the goal line offense on fourth down? The Steelers didn't need a touchdown. Maybe The Jaw wanted to stick one more in there after the Polamalu-Johnson episode. Just thinking out loud.

The Steelers are not out of the woods, not by a long shot. They chose the long road again as they did last season, and Kansas City was just the first mile. But you have to like their chances at least a little more now, if they can continue to play at that level.

Prediction: When the smoke clears on Oct. 29, the Steelers will be 4-3 and tied with the Ravens for first place after they lose to New Orleans. Cincinnati will be a game back at 3-4.