A lot of things about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night were ugly, and avoidable. But perhaps the most egregious and concerning thing that took place on the field was the fact that wide receiver Antonio Brown was not pulled from the game by the independent neurologist to be evaluated for a concussion.
The incident came with about seven minutes left to play in the game. Ben Roethlisberger just delivered the pass to his favorite target with goal to go, and Brown caught it toward the back of the end zone, having gotten free of the cornerback in coverage.
But he wasn’t all on his own. The safety, George Iloka, came in late, attempting to dislodge the ball, and in the act proceeded to make contact with the receiver’s head. In spite of the obvious hit to the head, which was known at the time, because Iloka was flagged, there was no effort whatsoever to evaluate the receiver.
This is in spite of the fact that Brown remained down on the ground for a few seconds, no doubt at least in part to celebrate, but also because he had just taken a significant and clear shot to the head. He even made a remark to reporters after the game, something to the effect that he was dazed. I don’t have the direct quote handy so I don’t want to put too much emphasis on it, but it only reinforces the fact that there is no excuse for him not to have been evaluated.
The league spent the next day having kneejerk responses to certain hits in the game, suspending both Iloka and Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, but what they should be overreacting to is the number of incidents this season in which a player has been allowed to continue to play after taking a hit, only later—often in the same game—to report concussion symptom.
There is supposed to be an independent ‘spotter’ monitoring the game, watching every play for possible concussive hits. We have seen this play out. A couple of years back, Antwon Blake was briefly pulled from a game while he was still with the Steelers after he seemed to have some impact to his head.
Why the league is slacking dramatically in this area is baffling to me. While they are emphasizing player safety, or at least paying lip service to it, they are allowing concussed players to continue to play until they feel symptoms. The spotter is supposed to prevent this from happening.
The number of incidents in which there has not even been the slightest attempt at evaluation this season is deeply discouraging. Whether or not Brown is fine after taking that hit—he immediately joined the ESPN post-game commentators—is immaterial to the fact that the hit that he took warranted him being tested for possible concussion symptoms. It is just the latest in a series of failures in a system that the league doesn’t appear too concerned about.