The NFL rarely punishes teams for lying on the injury report. The Steelers are one of the rare teams to be punished.
The NFL has announced, by leaking to its own in-house media company, that the Steelers have been fined $75,000 for not listing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as having an elbow problem on the injury report prior to a Week Two game against the Seahawks. The league also fined coach Mike Tomlin $25,000.
The Steelers listed Roethlisberger as not practicing on Wednesday of that week for reasons not related to injury. He fully participated on Thursday and Friday, and no injury was ever mentioned. Roethlisberger suffered a non-contact elbow injury during the game, resulting in season-ending surgery.
Pittsburgh’s goose apparently was cooked by comments the following week from quarterback Mason Rudolph, who told reporters that he had heard about Roethlisberger’s elbow issue in the week after the team’s Week One loss to the Patriots.
It’s unclear whether the NFL would have punished the Steelers if Rudolph hadn’t inadvertently blown the whistle. Typically, the league looks for reasons not to announce to the world that teams cheat on the injury report, because plenty of them do.
But it’s harder to not take action when candor results in these matters coming to light. For example, the NFL punished the Jets for hiding a torn biceps tendon suffered by Brett Favre during the 2008 season not because the league investigated the situation after reports emerged in late 2008 that Favre was suffering from the injury, but because Favre kept talking about it in 2009, to justify his poor performance in the final weeks of the season.
A decade ago, the league fined the Jets $75,000, coach Eric Mangini $25,000, and G.M. Mike Tannenbaum $25,000 for the Favre situation. This time around, the amounts were the same (so much for inflation), and G.M. Kevin Colbert apparently got a pass.