League Failed Steelers On Issue Of Player Safety Late In Loss

A lot of things went wrong for the Pittsburgh Steelers on their home turf on Saturday night en route to dropping their first playoff appearance in three years to the Baltimore Ravens by the score of 30-17.

There was, for example, the Terrell Suggs interception of a Ben Roethlisberger pass midway through the fourth quarter in a one-possession game, in which the quarterback, under duress, attempted to get the ball to his newly signed running back, only to see it bounce off his hands and nestle between the outside linebacker’s knees.

The Ravens quickly turned that turnover into seven points and a two-possession game, but the Steelers continued to drive, and even scored a touchdown on a pass to Dri Archer, only to have it negated by a holding penalty on Kelvin Beachum.

Not long after that, Roethlisberger was brought down in a way in which his helmet bounced off the Heinz Field grass. It was clear that he was dazed upon taking the hit, and he ultimately left the field and moved to the sideline with the trainers, who briefly supervised him.

Just a short time later, on a Bruce Gradkowski completion to Heath Miller, the veteran tight end took a shot to the helmet fighting for extra yardage. He, too, left the field to undergo the league’s in-game concussion protocol procedures.

By some miraculous turn of events, however, both players were able to return to the offensive huddle a few plays later, on what would prove to be the final play of the drive, as Roethlisberger proceeded to throw into the end zone in double coverage, resulting in an easy interception on the ill-advised pass.

I won’t go so far as to say that Roethlisberger’s decision-making was hampered as a result of the hit that he took as his head collided with the ground, although a game in Cleveland a few years back is jogged in my memory when a similar thing occurred.

As I saw both Roethlisberger and Miller return to the field, however, I was not relieved. Indeed, if anything, I was concerned, and I felt as though the league had failed to do their jobs properly.

How could they have properly evaluated both players within such a short period of time, to verify whether or not they had concussions? I’m left to wonder how much of the in-game concussion protocol is valid when it comes to safety concerns. Surely the league doesn’t want to see a starting quarterback on the sidelines with a concussion during a playoff game.

Going back to that Cleveland game, I recall that Colt McCoy, the quarterback in question, proceeded to throw an interception after returning to the game with what later turned out to be a concussion. I also recall that McCoy’s father was upset with the way that the league handled that situation. As I watched Roethlisberger quickly return to the field, I couldn’t help but think that the league hasn’t gotten any better in this regard.

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