Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has accomplished an awful lot this week—though it helps to have played two games. He has punted the ball, scored a rushing touchdown, thrown a stiff-arm—two actually after last night—and even scrambled for 18 yards, which was his longest gain with his legs since a 19-yard gain against the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.
This one could have ended even scarier than it did, however. As Roethlisberger went into his slide, Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid looked to ding him, and that’s exactly what he did, hitting the quarterback in the head and causing a whiplash effect.
In spite of that impact, the game was never stopped in order to allow Roethlisberger to be taken off the field in order to go through the concussions protocol, which one would assume should happen in this situation, even if the independental neurologist had to spot it and call for him to be evaluated. But I digress.
Roethlisberger stayed in the game, but Reid did not. He was ejected, a call that withstood the rigor of New York, the NFL’s officiating headquarters, which has final say and veto authority in such situations. They decided that the safety’s hit was egregious enough to warrant being thrown out.
Roethlisberger’s linemates surely agreed, as the entire offensive line went after Reid. David DeCastro was the first one in his face, but center Maurkice Pouncey, perhaps the lineman closest to the quarterback, was the most physical.
After the game, Reid said that he went up to Roethlisberger to apologize, which was in fact shown on the broadcast. He told Jourdan Rodrigue that he didn’t mean to hit Roethlisberger, but added that his job is to hit people, and asked if he was “supposed to wait” to deliver a hit. He said that the quarterback told him there were no hard feelings.
Roethlisberger has been putting himself in more positions to take hits this year. He already has 13 rushes or scrambles in nine games, not including quarterback kneeldowns, including two for gains of 15 yards or more, and two touchdowns.
That is the same number of carries that he had all of last season, outside of kneeldowns. And he only had 14 rushes in all of 2016 with kneeldowns. By my figuring, he is actually on-pace to have his most meaningful carries, whether designed sneaks or scrambles, since 2008, when he had 25, according to Pro Football Reference.
Several of his runs, however, have shown why the Steelers have shied away from using him in that way. He had taken a couple of hits to the head in running the ball this year, including on Sunday against the Ravens. The Reid hit last night came a little too close for comfort from being more serious.