The Sporting Iconoclast
Challenging the conventional wisdom, sowing new ideas, sending some old ones to the compost heap

Refs, Super Bowl announcers miss obvious rule violation on TD scramble

The Steelers’ first touchdown, on a scramble by QB Ben Roethlisberger, was disallowed after the Cardinals challenged. The refs decided the replays showed that Big Ben’s knee was down before the ball pierced the imaginary plane rising up from the front of the goal line. The Steelers had to settle for a a field goal.

You can see the play among the game highlights. The knee-down ruling was probably right.

But during the play and in all the scrutiny of the replays, which employed sophisticated zooming technology worthy of the CIA, an obvious rule violation went uncalled and unnoticed, or at least uncommented upon by the megabucks-earning TV announcers.

Here it is:

On the play, Roethlisberger is hit at the two and would have been stopped well short of the goal line, except that at the 1, Steelers center Justin Hartwig wrapped his arms around the quaterback and tried to throw him into the endzone. He almost succeeded. Unfortunately, this is against the rules.

This is from the NFL’s own online digest of its rules. The very first sentence under the heading “Use of Hands, Arms and Body” reads:

“No player on offense may assist a runner except by blocking for him.”

Hartwig wasn’t blocking for Roethlisberger, he was attempting to throw him.

It’s fairly common for a blocker to push a pile that has a teammate carrying the ball somewhere within it. That makes it tough to call — was the guy pushing a defender or a teammate? But in this case, the foul could not have been more obvious.

The problem was that everyone had their eyes on the ball and the goal line and didn’t pay any attention to what Hartwig was doing.

Ed Cohen

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