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Smith’s hit on Bell wasn’t a violation of new helmet rule

Bell Getty Images

Steelers fans had multiple reasons to be upset regarding the play that looked like a touchdown, but that wasn’t.

Apart from the rule that prevented running back Le’Veon Bell from scoring a touchdown because his helmet flew off before the ball crossed the goal line, questions have emerged regarding whether a hit to Bell’s helmet from the top of the helmet of Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith should have drawn a penalty.

Per a league source with knowledge of the manner in which rules are interpreted and applied, Smith’s hit did not violate the new “crown of the helmet” rule.  While the hit occurred outside the tackle box and with the top of Smith’s helmet, he didn’t “line up” Bell.

As the source explained it, the rule is intended to prevent players from taking a direct line at an opponent to deliver a battering-ram blow with the crown.  Here, Smith didn’t.

In contrast, linebacker Courtney Upshaw seemed to line Bell up at the goal line — but Upshaw failed to actually deliver a blow with the top of his helmet.

If a flag had been thrown, the half-the-distance placement would have been inconsequential.  But the Steelers would have gotten an automatic first down, making it easier to score the touchdown they scored anyway.

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32 Responses to “Smith’s hit on Bell wasn’t a violation of new helmet rule”
  1. reed20fence says: Nov 30, 2013 10:44 AM

    This Bell guy is gonna be a thorn in the Ravens side for a long time. The number of yards after contact this kid racks up are impressive.

    #beastmode2.0

  2. steelcurtainn says: Nov 30, 2013 10:51 AM

    The new “crown of the helmet” rule. Can’t wait to see the next dumb rule they create. The league is always adding or changing the rules. Soon, the only flag that will be thrown are the ones around the players waist.

  3. usmutts says: Nov 30, 2013 11:24 AM

    Incomprehensible rules incapable of being applied uniformly. Welcome to the new NFL.

  4. knowerofallthings says: Nov 30, 2013 11:27 AM

    Pitt fans still crying? Watch the video of your coach dancing on the sidelines, that should cheer you up

  5. siggtacular says: Nov 30, 2013 11:37 AM

    Keep on crying Pittsburgh

  6. mark4steelers says: Nov 30, 2013 11:42 AM

    “Per a league source with knowledge of the manner”…um, who? Because anyone who saw it has “knowledge of the manner” & anyone who saw it & weren’t in Black & White on that day or trying to cover their butts now would concur that that was a flagrant foul. If a RB getting completely knocked out due to a helmet-to-helmet hit is not considered a Helmet-to-Helmet penalty, then the rule is obviously designed to be more for controlling the outcome of games than player protection.

  7. sdakota says: Nov 30, 2013 11:50 AM

    once again, the media making up an issue. They also forgot to mention the special rules that apply at the goal line.
    Once again in their haste to get out a story, the sports media refuses to do their home work. You can forgive us as fans for making such mistakes, because we don’t get paid to cover sports as the media does smh

  8. joe6606 says: Nov 30, 2013 11:51 AM

    I’m more concerned about the non-call on the blatant face guarding/PI on the 2 pt attempt…

  9. steelhammer92 says: Nov 30, 2013 12:01 PM

    I don’t know of any Steelers fans complaining about the hit. It was another classic Steelers-Ravens collision. Clark on McGahee… Lewis on Mendenhall… Ward on Reed.. Smith/Upshaw on Bell.. The list goes on.

    This is the hardest hitting rivalry in the NFL. No other rivalry comes close. From the look of the previous game, it looks like this rivalry will live on just fine; even without Lewis, Reed, Ward, Harrison, etc.

  10. doctorrustbelt says: Nov 30, 2013 12:18 PM

    So… pittsburgh steelers and their fans are crying about rules and hits while being completely silent about william gay’s cheap shot on Jason Campbell, mike tomlin cheating, and the steelers team doctor’s indictment on distributing hgh and steroids?!?

    Crappy, low character franchise.

  11. koenig61 says: Nov 30, 2013 12:18 PM

    Defenders just took notice. They can hit a RB as hard as they want in the helmet, hoping to knock off the helmet and the play is automatically blown dead, thereby stopping a runner from getting a first down or TD. Why is it receivers are deemed defenseless but RBs aren’t? Yes I understand a lot of the times it’s the RB delivering the blow with the crown of his helmet, but this is a player in a defenseless position being speared by two defenders. We are reduced to the terminology “lining up the hit?” If that hit wasn’t a blatant spear with the helmet then I don’t know what is. And before any fans go off the deep end, imagine the RB was your player and another team speared your RB? Bells helmet was broken after that play. Literally broken. I think if this play is at any other point in the game, meaning not final play, the refs would have thrown a flag. But refs don’t want to make a call that decides outcome. I don’t know how anyone watching the hit doesn’t see spearing. If this is a receiver, we are talking 50K fine on defender.

  12. magicmtndan says: Nov 30, 2013 12:20 PM

    How the NFL can have a rule that spots the ball while the RUNNER WAS IN THE AIR and not down speaks volumes about how ridiculous things have become.

    When have you EVER seen the ball spotted at a point in MID-PLAY before?!

    Bell’s helmet came off due to one (or more helmet-to-helmet) shots at the goal line and before Bell was down, and the ball gets spotted short of the goal line he crossed.

    What this league needs is ultra-slow motion to really pin-point every spot, every call, every inch of every game. That plus some more “helpful rules” that the officials can’t call correctly without ultra-slow motion should make this league even more fun to watch.

  13. braven4evr says: Nov 30, 2013 12:52 PM

    longing for old school football without all of the bs rules and Roger Goodell!

  14. frombalttosf says: Nov 30, 2013 1:53 PM

    The biggest thing for me here is that either player could have been charged with a penalty. Smith hit him with his helmet, but Bell also led with the crown of the helmet, which is something RB’s can’t do anymore.

  15. kantnockdahustle89 says: Nov 30, 2013 1:59 PM

    @MountainMan. The rule is to keep guys from running without their helmet on. I think it’s a rare occurrence it happened as he was going down like that and into the end zone. The rule shouldn’t change.

  16. iamedreed says: Nov 30, 2013 2:15 PM

    people need to learn the rules before they criticize

    like how face guarding isn’t pass interference in the NFL or college, so that defense on the 2pt conversion was completely legal per mike pierra’s twitter

  17. thetruuf says: Nov 30, 2013 2:19 PM

    Going full speed trying to stop a potential game tying score, do you expect the other players to not try and stop him? Bell took a glancing blow from Upshaw that happened to knock him out. Freak play. Dont be a bunch a babies.

    Since Bell was knocked out, I dont see how they could say he had possession. It couldve been a fumble too..

  18. scoobies05 says: Nov 30, 2013 3:21 PM

    wicked play all the way around…and according to rules interpratation it was completely legal. important thing is the health of the players involved. bell does look like a beast and smith is starting to come into his own(finally). lets hope these two are part of the nfl’s best rivalry for years to come

  19. Nofoolnodrool says: Nov 30, 2013 3:41 PM

    people need to learn the rules before they criticize

    like how face guarding isn’t pass interference in the NFL or college, so that defense on the 2pt conversion was completely legal per mike pierra’s twitter

    Funny how raven fans like to give advice about the rules as long as it doesn’t effect them. In their world that is normal…in mine it’s called hypocrictical.

  20. Deb says: Nov 30, 2013 4:42 PM

    @steelhammer92 …

    I’m a Steelers fan, and I’m complaining about the hit. It looked to me like Smith lined up Bell and deliberately slammed him in the head with the crown of his helmet. That’s how it appeared in live action–and I still believe that’s what it was.

    Yes, this is a hard-hitting rivalry–and I’m fine with that. But you don’t line up players and slam them with the crown of your helmet because it’s STUPID. Not only would it draw a 15-yard penalty–if the officials were competent–but it could send you both to the hospital.

    We scored on that play without the flag, so I have no reason to complain about the outcome of the game–and I’m not complaining about the outcome of the game. As for the NFL saying Smith didn’t line up Bell … well, those are the same league folks who said that was not a defensive penalty at the end of the Pats/Panthers game. They have ZERO credibility.

  21. crownofthehelmet says: Nov 30, 2013 5:02 PM

    The Ravens redzone offense was a violation of decent football.

  22. scoobies05 says: Nov 30, 2013 5:05 PM

    and yet it was good enough to win, right buddy?

  23. melikefootball says: Nov 30, 2013 5:56 PM

    Typical NFL they can justify anything to not make them look bad. Obvious hit to the helmet yet no flag or no fines. To many rules and to many NFL official not ever being consistent in these calls. Love the line up to helmet explanation sounds like the freedom of speech explanation for Brady chasing down an official and no fine. Gödel is taking the NFL down.

  24. loftonbomb80 says: Nov 30, 2013 6:41 PM

    They should paint all helmets with a white “crown” to make it easier to call penalties. Or maybe put automotive air bags on the tops of every players helmet. How about making the helmets the size of Dark Helmets in Space Balls the movie. And made of foam.

  25. blackngold4life says: Nov 30, 2013 8:33 PM

    Bell wasnt hurt until his head hit the ground..lets move on..if a RB can lower his head/drop a shoulder then a player on defence should be able to do the same. The 2 pt conversion was just a bad play..was pure luck Sanders even got his hands on a ball he couldn’t even see.Quit complainin..Ratbirds kickd their way to a win so be it.

  26. blackngold4life says: Nov 30, 2013 8:42 PM

    The no helmet rule is
    good..just shouldn’t apply in this case..the man was already on his way down..no whistle was blown when it came off right? They had to use REPLAY.

  27. Moudabo says: Nov 30, 2013 10:46 PM

    What a joke! he didn’t “line up” Bell ??

    Bell was outside the tackle box and got double-dinged
    in the head, knocked out, concussed and the helmet cracked.
    Isn’t that what the NFL is trying to take out of the game?
    Isn’t that why James Harrison was vilified mercilessly?

    If ‘Lining up’ refers to the INTENT of a player, then
    since when has the NFL taken a player’s ‘intent’ into account
    with it’s new player safety concerns and new rules ??

    It’s supposed to be black or white – clearcut – no room
    for Refs or officials to determine intent.
    Also, There are numerous examples of unintentional hits
    being flagged, and even fined. This is a total whitewash.

    It’s a good rule that’s been poorly applied, and the
    inconsistencies are hurting the game. Another black eye
    for the NFL.

  28. mrmidevil says: Dec 1, 2013 1:36 PM

    This was a foul, and a blown call. Defend it or make whatever excuses you people want. But if player safety is the goal, the nfl failed. To me… It is the tuck rule all over again. A bad call with the media and nfl justifying it and trying to make people accept poor explanations to draw attention away from the fact that nfl officials are told to influence games to the point of deciding the outcomes. Its about tv ratings, money, and the nfl being in bed with certain owners(Kraft) and vegas!

  29. Joemontanaflacco says: Dec 1, 2013 8:17 PM

    Sour grapes Steelers fan comment goes here:

  30. SmashMouthFootball says: Dec 2, 2013 9:30 AM

    “Funny how raven fans like to give @advice about the rules as long as it doesn’t effect them. In their world that is normal…in mine it’s called hypocrictical.”

    @NoFool, good thing you are the only one living in your world. I read it as @iamedreed was using a subject matter expert to contradict an emotional claim of pass interference from bitter Steeler fans. Hypocritical is complaining about that call when in that very game your coach “lost his placement” and in the game before that a hit to the QB helmet that should have been flagged. Failing to acknowledge those while complaining about a PI call, that experts say was a good non-call, is hypocritical. Keep trying, you might get one right sooner or later.

  31. candrwells says: Dec 2, 2013 2:15 PM

    I am a Steelers fan.

    I honestly am not that concerned about the hit… In these Ravens Steelers games, hits, big hits, usually happen.

    The rule about him not being given the TD when his helmet came off is utterly ridiculous. If a player has his feet or anything else on the ground and his helmet comes off… fine… stop the play. But not in mid air, and not due to someone else knocking off his helmet.

    Otherwise, you’re begging for players to go head hunting near the goal line.

  32. JunkChuck says: Dec 4, 2013 10:52 AM

    With this call, the NFL has established a precedent that will lead to more and greater injuries. Despite League lip service regarding concussions, it is now a perfectly acceptable strategy for defensive players to attempt to de-helmet offensive players in goal line stands–the greater the stakes of the game, the more reasonable ANY fine will seem to the perpetrator. Its ironic that so much attention has been paid to Mike Tomlin’s sideline snafu this week, while the intentional hit (absurd that this wasn’t a flagrant foul: watch Jimmy Smith “lower the boom”) and the ensuing, glaring series of officiating blunders (the hit should have been penalized, and the touchdown should not have been reversed) has been largely ignored.

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