An Indignant Rant About "Concussion Prevention" Rules: A Week 9 Analysis

There’s not a lot to say about the Steelers’ 23-20 loss to Baltimore. I’m still not 100% sure how they lost that game, as a matter of fact.

I really thought Pittsburgh looked like the better team. The offense was efficient, highlighted by another big game by Antonio Brown and an offensive line that held the vaunted Ravens pass rush in check for most of the game.

The defense just couldn’t get stops on third downs, and it came back to bite them. If the Steelers had one more good possession, maybe they come away with the victory instead.

These two teams appeared to be about as evenly matched as they could get, and enough bounces went the Ravens way. I hope there’s a third matchup in the playoffs to settle this.

What I really want to talk about is the officiating. I know, it’s cliché for fans of a losing team to blame the refs for the loss.

But more than just blaming the officials for costing the Steelers the game, which I think they certainly had a hand in, I want to discuss Commissioner Goodell’s “headshot” rules and how they’ve continued to be used to target Pittsburgh players.

I completely disagree with the creation of these rules. I feel that’s it’s simply ridiculous to expect players to be able to adjust the trajectory of their bodies with just half a second’s notice as they fly around the field at increasingly high speeds.

But if these rules are going to exist, and I fear they’re here to stay, then they need to be enforced fairly across the league. Last night was a pretty blatant example of the refs grossly miscalling these penalties.

Early in the game, Ray Lewis laid this hit on Hines Ward:

There was no foul called on the play, even though Lewis CLEARLY struck Ward with the crest of his helmet, and made no visible effort to avoid doing so.

Compare that to this hit by Ryan Clark on Ed Dickson, which was penalized:

Clark launches himself, but clearly attempts to lead with his shoulder toward Dickson’s body. Dickson just made the decision to duck his head to brace for the impact, and consequently Clark clipped his facemask.

That 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty allowed that Baltimore drive to continue, and let the Ravens tack on three more points before the half, which also happens to be the margin of victory.

It’s unfair and a cop out to place this defeat solely at the feet of the referees. The Steelers could have absolutely won this game despite this call.

But it is INCREDIBLY frustrating as a fan to see these penalties called against my team over and over again, when other players act extremely similarly and receive no punishment.

In a game as close as this one, the officials have to decide to either let the players play or call things extremely tightly, but selectively picking and choosing which fouls deserve to be highlighted is unacceptable.

Clark will probably be fined for his hit, and that drives me crazy. I understand the need for concussion safety but this is not the way to go about it. Goodell has created an unhealthy environment for the refs to call a game in, and that’s why I’ve opposed his leadership since the imposition of these rules last year.

In the grand scheme of things, this call could prove to be really meaningful. If the Bengals and Jets continue playing the way they have recently, the Steelers could find themselves squeezed out of the playoff picture entirely. They’re already at a disadvantage to win the division with the tiebreaker squarely in Baltimore’s hands, and now they have to be thinking about the wildcard.

One call in a game should never have the much significance. For Mike Tomlin, this will be a real challenge to help the team recover from this loss in time for their surprisingly meaningful game against Cincinnati next week.

Let’s hope he can help the team move past the injustice of this game more quickly than I do.

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