Have you ever been frustrated watching a game when a penalty is called and the TV broadcast doesn’t explain or show what happened? Of course, you have. That happened a few times in Week 18 when the Steelers furthered their path to the playoffs by beating the hated Ravens. We will use the coach’s film to try and make sense out of a few of these calls.
Our first clip is from the Steeler punt at the end of the first quarter. After the TV timeout, we returned from commercials expecting the Steeler defense on the field. Instead, we had referees talking to both sidelines and announcing to the crowd that the Steelers had 12 players on the field for the punt, there would be a 5-yard penalty, and the first play of the second quarter would be a replaying of fourth down. Instantly, Steelers fans were wondering how the special teams could screw up so badly to not notice they had an extra player.
“Fire Danny Smith!” was probably shouted in more than one living room. The announcers did mention that it was a player leaving the field who did not get off before the snap. In the top left corner of the clip below, Diontae Johnson is still on the field from the previous play when the Steelers snap the ball. Johnson had run a go route down the far sideline and was still making his way to the bench.
At the very beginning of the clip, George Pickens has just barely cleared the wide white area on the Steeler sideline at the 49 as he returned from his intermediate route to the far sideline. There were still 19 seconds on the play clock at the snap, so it wasn’t like the Steelers were in danger of a delay of game penalty had they waited a few more seconds. Unfortunately, the Ravens would get the ball at the 35 on the re-kick after the original had been downed at the 6. Should the wide receivers have been hustling more? Should there have been a coach on the sidelines aware of this and alerting the punt team to wait before snapping? Blame whoever you want, but at least now we see how the penalty occurred.
Next is a Raven punt from the 47 where they get called for an ineligible man downfield. The only players allowed to cross the line of scrimmage before the punt are the gunners—the two outside-most players along the line. Here we see that No. 30 for the Ravens is at the 49 before the punter’s foot has made contact with the ball. This penalty rarely occurs unless the punter mishandles the snap and throws off the timing of the play.
Next, we have a penalty on the re-kick. There was no return as the ball bounced into the end zone for a touchback. When a holding penalty was announced, the BTSC open threads had comments along the lines of, “Only a Danny Smith unit can get called for holding on a punt return when we didn’t even return the punt!”
Connor Heyward must have been instructed to make sure No. 30 didn’t get a quick release again. Heyward wraps both hands around the Raven player, covering up the name on the back of the jersey, and runs him into the ground.
Here was yet another special teams play resulting in a penalty. This is the extra point after the Mason Rudolph-to-Diontae Johnson 71-yard TD that gave the Steelers a 14-7 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. Watching the game, all we were told was that the Steelers were kicking off from the 50 due to a penalty.
Nate Herbig (No. 71) will get stood up and pushed back. After the kick, Herbig delivers a two-handed love tap to the back of No. 92. The Ravens player retaliates with a shot to Herbig’s head and the official tosses the flag. Watching this play a few times, it looks like 92 gave Big Nate an extra shove, possibly up at the neck area, before Nate’s love tap.
“Snap infraction on the center” were the words coming out of referee Brad Allen’s mouth. A TV replay down the line of scrimmage didn’t show much of anything. From the end zone, we can see Mason Cole do a full-body hiccup before he snaps the ball.
We move on from odd penalty calls, now to some looks at a no-call. The Steelers were gashed for 29 yards on a Gus Edwards second-quarter run. He slips through a one-armed tackle attempt by Armon Watts to get 10 yards downfield before Patrick Peterson overruns the play from his safety position, allowing 19 additional yards.
Look at No. 42 for the Ravens on the right side of the screen. Note that the “9” and the “4” are the only black parts of Watts’ jersey until the left glove of 42 grabs him across the collarbone and twists him away from the hole that Edwards runs through.
The release reminds me of watching a rodeo cowboy after getting a calf to the ground and tying its hind legs.
Enough about referees! Let’s have a look at the first career sack for linebacker Mark Robinson. The Ravens are trying to hit something deep as they send only two receivers out and keep two tight ends in to block. To his credit, Robinson explodes through an opening and wraps up the quarterback who tries to duck under the tackle. Congrats young man!
How was Robinson able to run through untouched? Cam Heyward will draw the attention of No. 76 and No. 65. Alex Highsmith will be the assignment for No. 88 and No. 42. Four Ravens blocking two Steelers will leave someone unaccounted for. Even when nothing hits the stat sheet, Heyward and Highsmith are still affecting plays. Not only did Highsmith occupy two blockers, he got past them, and with the slow-developing deeper routes he may have recorded a sack himself on the play if the Steelers hadn’t sent Robinson on a blitz.
Here’s to hoping we see less of the avoidable penalties and more of the untouched Steelers defender sacking the quarterback when the playoff adventure begins on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET against the Buffalo Bills!