As unimportant as it is, there will always be an asterisk next to his career touchdown total of Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell. In Week 13 of the 2013 season, his rookie year, the Letter of the Law NFL took a touchdown away from him because of a rule it, ironically, created to protect safety. He was knocked unconscious after taking a savage hit from Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, his helmet popped off as a result, with the ball being less than a yard short of the goal line.
Bell's touchdown, while earned, was not counted, because it's unsafe for a player to continue falling into the end zone, even if the damage on that player had already been done. Clearly, an aim for a defensive player is to hit the running back so hard in the head, his helmet comes off.
How else was Smith going to stop Bell - the Steelers' all-purpose yardage machine who racked up 136 yards at one touchdown in Pittsburgh's 22-20 loss to Baltimore.
And one touchdown that didn't count.
That call did not determine the game, but rules of such insignificance and ones clearly created to do nothing more than cover the NFL in a courtroom should not ever be in a position to do such a thing. Yet, this call had the potential to do that. To even suggest the spirit of that rule was in play as Bell ran between the tackles, head lowered, looking for paydirt is ridiculous. The helmetless runner is being protected against a head shot from another helmet. When the runner already lost his helmet because of a head shot, and likely suffered a concussion from the force of that hit, spending time to review the play and overruling it may be what officials are trained to do, but the fact their blanket rule designed to promote - not enforce - safety is wide open for such mockery. It's rife for criticism.
This is something they clearly should look to modify this offseason. Le'Veon Bell was not in any way protected from the biggest hit he's taken as a pro. He did what any hardened competitor should do; so did Smith for that matter. Since there's no possible way an official is going to be able to accurately determine where his helmet came off without the help of replay, it's another rule the league has created that its officials are unable to determine without the assistance of video replay.
The baggage surrounding this rule blocks out the purpose of having it in the first place.
Le'Veon Bell became a Steeler for life today, as far as I'm concerned. I don't care if he doesn't play another down. That was the Man Play of the Season. He should be remembered with that SteelerNation-affixed asterisk. He scored two touchdowns against Baltimore in the loss, but the league ultimately won in creating an even wider divide between the direction of the current game, and what it used to be.
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- Jacoby Jones: 'if I was (Tomlin), I'd do the same thing'
- Monday Takeaways (Friday Edition): Steelers lose big game, may have lost more as well
- Winners and Losers from Pittsburgh's 22-20 loss to Baltimore
- Steelers vs. Ravens final score: Baltimore tops Pittsburgh 22-20 after bizarre finish