Dean Blandino, the Vice President of NFL Officiating, is finally letting us know why Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier wasn’t penalized Saturday night for his third quarter hit on Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard that resulted in a fumble.
In his weekly officiating video, Blandino explains that Shazier wasn’t penalized because he didn’t line Bernard up following him catching the pass out in the flat. He goes on to say that the two players were moving in different directions and that Bernard had already established himself as a runner.
Blandino broke down the three elements of consideration within Article 8 of the NFL rule book and why the hit was legal.
“But there’s three elements to that rule. You have to line up your opponent, you have to lower your head, and you have to make forcible contact with the very top of the helmet. The key issue here is the line up. And when we’re talking about angles, and the players are moving at different angles, where you have Bernard is moving in this direction, Shazier is moving in this direction, then we don’t have the line up.
“You’re really dealing with the players moving in the same direction towards each other when this rule would apply. The theory being, when players are moving at angles, they don’t have as much opportunity to avoid that contact. That’s where the rule does not apply.
“You watch it here, we’re moving at angle, not a foul.”
Blandino continued: “We certainly are concerned with players lowering their head. We don’t want players to lower their head to initiate contact. That’s why this rule was in place, to coach that, and to get that out of the game. And the players have done a great job and the players have done a great job. This crown of the helmet rule has not been called very often. We haven’t had a lot of fines in this area because we’re not seeing it very often. But we have to continue to look at this technique and make sure that where we can we eliminate it from the game and we prohibit players and deter players from dropping and using the crown of the helmet.”
Early on in the video, Blandino said he thinks the remarkable touchdown catch by Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant probably wasn’t a legal catch after all but that there likely wasn’t enough replay evidence to overturn the call that was made on the field.