Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
The Steelers defensive end was penalized for performing his ritual sack "dance" in week 16, but at least he won't be fined for it.
Shooting an arrow from a bow is an image often associated with the term "sportsman". However, according to referee Mike Carey, Keisel's sack celebration was the exact opposite -- unsportsmanlike conduct.
As the pivotal week 16 game began between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals, defensive end Brett Keisel sacked Andy Dalton on a third down, ending the Bengals drive and giving some momentum to his own team's offense. To celebrate, Keisel took to one knee and performed the same motion he has for years. On this day, he was penalized for it in the form of a personal foul giving the Bengals a fresh set of downs and 15 yards.
On Friday, when fines were handed out after a weeks review, Keisel received none. Gerry Dulac quoted Keisel on the non-fine, saying "I would have really gone off."
In Carey's defense, their are two rules that were violated in Keisel's act. First, Keisel went to the ground in celebration. There is no denying that fact. However, players like Tim Tebow and Robert Griffin III developed notoriety from touchdown celebrations that involve players going to the ground. Von Miller "Tebowed" after sacking Ben Roethlisberger in the Steelers opening game against the Denver Broncos, only there were no penalties for Miller. The Steelers could have desperately used a first down at that time, but no one was concerned with sack celebrations that happened with one knee on the ground.
According to Dulac's report on this subject, Carey chose the other rule to defend his prosecution of Keisel. Dulac quotes Carey's reasoning for throwing the flag was "going to the ground and shooting a weapon". We are going to assume that Mr. Dulac either spoke to Mr. Carey, or read the quote from another source, because that was not Carey's ruling on the field. Carey only cited going to the ground.
Had Keisel been fined, he would have been another name tossed on the pile of those felt to be targeted by Roger Goodell, mainly Steelers players. Yet, not being fined still falls negatively on the league offices. From the overturn of Bountygate, to the Richard Sherman drug test fiasco; the NFL seems to be full of double standards, and they are pouring from the office of commissioner Goodell.
How would not fining Keisel look badly on the commissioner or the league? Because you can purchase a copy of Keisel performing his celebration after sacking Dalton, directly from the league's website. A similar occurrence took place when images of a concussed Colt McCoy lied on the ground after colliding with James Harrison. Harrison was fined for hitting McCoy, yet the league still attempted to market photo sales from it.
McCoy's photo was eventually pulled from rotation, as will Keisel's most likely. With the recent trend of violence plaguing the United States of America, it is completely understandable why the league would not want to endorse the use of weapons. However, if the league finds these instances suitable for sales, why are they not suitable for the football field. If the rule is the rule, than so be it; but it is difficult to blame a player for not knowing a rule, when he commits an act he has never been penalized for in the past.
While fans of the Steelers may spew Keisel's penalty like sour grapes, inconsistent officiating has been a problem all season. From replacement referees to varied definitions of pass interference, the league has some work to do his offseason to correct these issues.
Keisel, himself, is not holding a grudge. In fact, he has shown enough flexibility to change his celebration, although the nature of that celebration is a secret as of now. However, he will proudly put it on display in week 17 if he registers a sack against any of the quarterbacks the Browns march onto Heinz Field.