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Big special teams hit could cost Steelers linebacker

| Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 10:18 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers’ Terence Garvin (left) prepares to block Bengals punter Kevin Huber (10), who fractured his jaw on the play Sunday on Heinz Field. Huber will miss the rest of the season because of the injury. Garvin wasn’t penalized for the hit, but the NFL might choose to fine him.

The hit that Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin put on unsuspecting Bengals punter Kevin Huber not only was punishing, it was season-ending.

Huber will miss the rest of the season with a fractured jaw that requires surgery, and the Bengals began searching Monday for a replacement punter. Huber remained overnight in Pittsburgh getting treatment following the Steelers' 30-20 victory on Sunday night.

The question is whether Garvin will take a different kind of hit in the form of a major fine from the NFL.

Garvin was not penalized by referee Ed Hochuli's crew for running over Huber as the punter closed in to try to make a tackle during Antonio Brown's 67-yard punt return touchdown. Huber was looking in a different direction and apparently did not see Garvin coming.

“I just (saw) a white shirt ...I was just trying to throw a block to spring AB,” Garvin said. “I thought I hit him in his chest; I was aiming for his chest. ... I didn't feel it, but I'm sure he felt it a little bit. It was a pretty good hit; I felt I got all of him, for the most part.”

The hit did not appear to violate the so-called Hines Ward rule that prohibits crackback blocks, like that blindside hit thrown by the former Steelers wide receivers on Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers in 2008. Rivers' jaw also was broken.

However, NFL punters and kickers are defined under league rules as defenseless players at all times. Such a designation means they can't be hit anywhere in the head or neck area by a helmet, shoulder or forearm.

The rule applies even when a punter tries to get in on a play, as Huber was attempting to do to prevent the first punt return touchdown against the Bengals since Brown's 60-yarder against them two seasons ago.

The NFL rule states: “It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture. Players in a defenseless posture are: 6) A kicker/punter during the kick or during the return.”

A penalty on Garvin would have wiped out Brown's return.

Despite that ban, Garvin's friend, Steelers linebacker Vince WIlliams, posted the following comment on Twitter a few hours after the game ended:

“Ps, if you're standing on a football field AND you're wearing a helmet AND you're trying to a make a tackle, you might get blocked lol.” He posted several follow-up tweets: “First rule of football, keep your head on a swivel” and “Injuries are not funny and I hope he comes out alright. Big hits are just apart of football it's been that way since well forever.”

Steelers players were off Monday and Garvin was not available for further comment.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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