Trailing 31-3 late in the third quarter, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett — making his first career star — found himself scrambling and sliding near the first down marker along the Buffalo Bills sideline.
Former University of Pittsburgh teammate and close friend Damar Hamlin then found himself in the middle of a dust-up as he landed a questionable hit on Pickett in his slide, leading to Steelers right guard James Daniels belting the second-year safety from behind, igniting some shoving on the Bills’ sideline.
Following the 38-3 loss in Buffalo, Daniels stated that official John Hussey wanted to eject the fifth-year pro, but the NFL office in New York prevented his ejection for knocking Hamlin down after the questionable hit.
“He was going to kick me out. But he said he called New York, and they said that it wasn’t good enough to get me kicked out. So they let me come back in. So I appreciate New York for letting me come back into the game,” Daniels stated, according to original reporting from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Tim Benz.
Hearing that Hussey wanted Daniels ejected for starting the dust-up after the unflagged hit on Pickett is a bit of a surprise, considering it’s something that happens often in games where linemen stick up for their quarterbacks.
In 2018, David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey came to the defense of Ben Roethlisberger after he was decked by Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid. Neither were ejected, though offsetting penalties were called for the hit and the ensuing decision to start the dust-up.
Maybe the score and overall situation in the game with the Steelers trailing by 28 played a factor in Hussey’s thought process, but it’s good to hear that the league office stepped in and prevented the veteran lineman from being ejected.
The decision to protect his quarterback was an easy one, Daniels added, stating that anyone else on the team would have done the same thing in his position. His decision to stand up for Pickett in the moment is one that is being praised throughout the fanbase and media following the blowout loss that has the Steelers seemingly at rock bottom.
“I was two yards away. Anyone else on our team would have done exactly the same thing. It wasn’t just me. Anyone on our team would’ve done the same thing in my position,” Daniels added, according to Benz.
That decision to shove Hamlin didn’t quite have the desired outcome for the offense that maybe Daniels was aiming for as he tried to galvanize a struggling offense, at least in Sunday’s game. However, his quarterback certainly knows his teammates have his back, and the rest of the team knows where Daniels stands when it comes to defending his own.