This past off-season the NFL changed the rule regarding helmet to helmet contact. Officiating would disallow any defender making forcible contact specifically with the crown of the helmet. The hit that Ryan Shazier made on Giovani Bernard in the 2015 playoff game, forcing a fumble and knocking Bernard out cold, would be illegal going forward.
Frankly, I thought the rule change was for the best. It protects not only ball carriers, but the spines and brains of the guys delivering the blows on the defensive side of the ball.
But, then I remembered that a few running backs, Adrian Peterson being the most prominent example, have extensively used exactly that tactic to barrel over would be tacklers.
I sent a tweet to Dean Blandino inquiring as to whether or not running backs would be held to the same standard as the guys trying to tackle them, with regard to use of the head.
This was his response:
I know these plays happen really fast and that the officials get more calls right than they do wrong. I really do believe that. But, this is another example of where they could do a better job.
Yes, they do have to legislate the use of the head out of the game. I understand that. It’s not only an economic issue, it’s a safety and moral issue as well.
However, if they are going to hold one side of the ball accountable, they have to do so with both.
Sunday, Ryan Shazier was assessed a 15 yard penalty, ultimately for Unnecessary Roughness, initially for Illegal Contact with a Defenseless Receiver, after a collision with Kyle Juszczyk. It would appear to me that not only did Juszczyk lower his head before the contact occurred, but also that it was Juszczyk who delivered the blow to Shazier’s facemask with the crown of his helmet. The hit occurred outside the tackle box and Juszczyk had apparently established himself as a runner based upon the ultimate call on the field.
Watch the video and judge for yourself.
— Steel Dad (@SteelDad) December 28, 2016
At the end of the day, the Steelers won the game and neither Shazier or Juszczyk were seemingly injured. That is the important part.
But, it seems to me that the wrong guy was flagged on the play.