NFL Will ‘Ease’ Roughing The Passer Calls, Eliminate Incidental Contact Penalties

If news that should make fans very happy, the NFL will raise the burden for roughing the passer against quarterbacks this season. According to CBS’ Jonathan Jones via the league’s officiating department, officials will no longer call roughing the passer for “incidental” contact against the quarterback.

Via Jones’ article, here’s the specifics.

“Since 2011, any movement of the quarterback’s head caused by contact by a defender would be ruled a foul. Upon review this offseason, the NFL didn’t feel there was a safety issue with just any contact to a quarterback’s head. When a pass rusher tries to “match” the quarterback’s hand when attempting to block or bat a pass, the potential incidental contact to the QB’s head or neck won’t be flagged for roughing.”

Defenders who use more violent motions and make contact with a quarterback’s head will still be flagged. Essentially, this tweaking of the rules eliminates the dreaded “grazing” call of the quarterback when a defender with brush a QB’s helmet without any intent or force, and still be called for a back-breaking penalty.

The article goes on to say that only forcible contact will be ruled a penalty. Meaning players who are pushed into the quarterback below his knees will not be flagged for roughing the passer.

The NFL called 154 roughing the passer calls in 2021, easily the most in recent years. Here’s the number of calls per season dating back to 2018.

Roughing The Passer Calls (2018-2021)

2021: 154
2020: 127
2019: 136
2018: 118

Even with the 17th game, roughing the passer calls were still increased on a relative basis, and the NFL is clearly trying to pull back a bit with – finally – some smart and sensible boundaries to the penalty.

Last season, Pittsburgh had five roughing the passer calls go against them while opposing defenses on Steelers’ quarterbacks were flagged six times. In 2020, the Steelers had four calls against them with two working in their favor. Though Pittsburgh has managed to keep their penalties down, they generate more pressure and sacks than nearly any other defense so having this rule put in place can only be a good thing for the likes of T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and the rest of the Steelers’ front seven. Pittsburgh has posted 50+ sacks in five straight seasons, tying or holding the outright lead each year. In 2022, they’ll look to reach the 60-sack mark, something that hasn’t been done by any team in nearly a decade.

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