John Harbaugh: It's never over against the Steelers
Involved in his own controversy Thanksgiving night, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was not pleased with the “helmet off” rule that came into play late in the game. As Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell tried to power his way into the end zone, he collided violently with Jimmy Smith and Courtney Upshaw. Bell’s helmet flew off and he appeared to be momentarily knocked out. After the game Tomlin said Bell had suffered a concussion.
Bell’s run was called a touchdown on the field, but after it was reviewed, the touchdown was nullified, and the ball was moved back just short of the goal line. Why? Because NFL rules state that when a ball carrier’s helmet comes completely off, the play ends immediately. So even though Bell broke the plane of the end zone as he landed, the touchdown was waved off.
ProFootballTalk.com suggested Friday that the “helmet off” rule should be modified, allowing the ball to be spotted where the ball carrier landed if he was already in the process of falling when his helmet came off. Tomlin sounded like he would be in favor of that change after the game.
“I understand the rule, that when a runner’s helmet comes off, the play is over,” Tomlin said. “The issue I have is I was told on the field that the touchdown was confirmed, by multiple officials, and then they reviewed it. That was my issued from a mechanic standpoint. I understand the rule, that when the helmet comes off the plays is over.”
Smith was also slow to get up after the collision. Asked about Smith’s condition after the game, Harbaugh said, “Jimmy should be OK.”
Hopefully, Bell recovers quickly. But the goal line collision may cause the league to take a closer look at the `helmet off’’ rule. It was just another part of a compelling game that still had people talking the day after.