Mike Tomlin's sideline gaffe is under review. Clearly, the Steelers will be punished to have an example made of them. Whether Tomlin's positioning was intentional or not is something fans can debate for weeks. In the end, it is irrelevant, because that debate will not cause the NFL to change its position.
The bigger concern is what sort of resolution will be reached regarding two of the missed calls by the referees during the game? Suisham's false start and botched kick should have been a loss of five yards and remained 4th down. This could have led to a 3 point swing, or at worst, significantly worse field position for the Ravens. It is a botched call and sets the tone for the officiating of the game. (Note: I personally enjoy when referees do not make the game about themselves, and this call did not bother me quite so much as the commentary during the game. It was stated that Suisham's action was a false start, and [forgive the paraphrasing] that it was such a rare phenomenon that the referee did not know to call it).
A second major instance in which a call was not made, the helmet to helmet hit on Bell, may have been the most catastrophic. Most fans understand the relatively new rule that a play will be blown dead when a player's helmet comes off. It makes sense. Player safety is paramount. Player safety is the intent of the rule. However, when a play happens similar to the one on Thanksgiving Day, it rewards players for being aggressive and taking shots to the runner's head.
If a defensive player is engaged in a goal line stand, and the running back is clearly going to pass the goal line (similar to Bell's position), the option is to now aim for the head, hit them as hard as possible, and knock the player's helmet off. Suffice to say, that strategy, while not necessarily a guarantee, provides the option of stopping an almost guaranteed touchdown run.
Taking the touchdown away from the Steelers after that run defeats the spirit of the rule: player safety. It rewards reckless endangerment. The rule must be tweaked to account for this, and the lack of a flag on the play is even more absurd. Following that play, the Steelers lost Velasco to an ACL tear, and had fewer reliable options for a subsequent 2 point conversion (which they fortunately had the opportunity to attempt).
Where is the debate about how situations like this should be handled? Ultimately, the NFL is heavy handed in player safety in an incredibly inconsistent manner, punishing players that should not be punished (Ahmad Brooks' hit on Drew Brees with incidental contact to the neck area comes to mind), and allowing dangerous plays to be made with fantastic reward and no punishment doled out (the hit on Bell).
But fortunately, the NFL has its priorities in line. A coach with a quarter of his foot on the field is a significantly greater concern, and an egregious fault by Mike Tomlin that must be discussed heavily. A player being knocked out from being speared (and getting his helmet broken in the process), however, is not even a hit worth noting.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Tomlin Two-Step: All the news surrounding Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's status after Week 13
- Wallace all but asking for boos
- Steelers injury report: Offensive line prepares B squad for Dolphins
- Seahawks QB Russell Wilson ties Ben Roethlisberger's wins record
- Ryan Clark jabs at SpyGate, supports Mike Tomlin
- Breaking down the Steelers' playoff chances
- Hit on Le'Veon Bell broke part of his helmet