The NFL is holding a two-day league meeting between yesterday and today that is focused solely around two issues: yesterday was devoted to ironing details about the new lowering the helmet rule while today will be devoted to exploring changes to the kickoff that could affect the 2018 season.
The focus of yesterday’s meeting, which included some owners, coaches, officials, former players, and NFLPA representation, was on clarifying the specific language of the lowering the helmet rule, which according to the Washington Post was altered as a result of the meeting and is expected to be finalized in about a week.
It also focused on determining the role that replay will serve in judging the merits of an ejection of a player by virtue of an egregious violation of the new rule. While the rest of the language was approved by the owners back in March, the replay portion of the rule must be ratified later this month.
The huge tidbit of the article that stands out relevant to the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, is that the league determined the hit by Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka on wide receiver Antonio Brown last year was one of four hits from the 2017 season that would have merited an ejection. Another was the Danny Trevathan hit on Davante Adams.
You might recall that hit. It came on a play on which Brown actually scored a touchdown. It was a great play by the receiver made all the greater by the fact that he had to concentrate through a hit that was illegal last year and that would result an ejection next year.
It was a huge, game-changing play with the Steelers trailing by seven points midway through the fourth quarter. Ben Roethlisberger drove the team down the field from their own 25-yard line before finding first and goal at the six. He found his favorite target on the next play on the score.
Iloka hit Brown, clearly in a defenseless position, in the helmet with his own, and frankly I was sure the receiver would have received a concussion, but fortunately he did not. At least he did not report one. The safety was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
And he was even suspended for a game, initially, but he had the suspension overturned. I’ll remind you this was the same game in which JuJu Smith-Schuster’s one-game suspension for an illegal crackback block on Vontaze Burfict (which was really a penalty) was upheld.
If there are two things to take away from this article, it is, first, that hits like Iloka’s are the one that the league is looking to crack down on (and that he deserved more than he got, erring in overturning his suspension); and second, that ejections are not intended to be a widespread method of enforcing the rule. Though the article doesn’t state that the four plays shown were the only examples of plays that merited ejections. I will expand further on the details from this meeting in another article tomorrow.