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Breakfast with Benz

Tim Benz: NFL's new helmet rule bound to be train wreck

| Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, 6:42 a.m.
Green Bay Packers' Oren Burks hits Pittsburgh Steelers' Fitzgerald Toussaint during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Green Bay Packers' Oren Burks hits Pittsburgh Steelers' Fitzgerald Toussaint during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

The Steelers defense didn't get a lot of people to the ground on Thursday night. The 51-34 preseason loss in Green Bay would seem to be indicative of that. One of the few times that did happen, though, they got a penalty for it.

Coty Sensabaugh got flagged for this "illegal hit" on Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis.

Thanks to emphasizing flags for lowering and leading with the head to initiate contact, that was deemed an illegal play.

You have to be kidding me. If the NFL eventually rules that this hit was called correctly, then the new helmet rule will be every bit the nightmare it is predicted to be.

Let's say it. The referees are spooked to the point that if they see a moderate collision in open space that doesn't result in someone getting methodically dragged to the ground in multiple steps, they are going to throw a flag.

The officials are now calling what they fear instead of calling what they think. There's erring on the side of caution. Then there is just erring. And these officials are guilty of the latter.

On the broadcast, Sensabaugh (No. 24) — who is hitting from the left side of the screen — was called for the penalty. If anyone, Morgan Burnett (42), the other Steeler in the frame, appears to lower his head more.

At first, I thought the numbers might have been confused. Then cameras caught Mike Tomlin confirming "No. 24" to an official on the sideline.

However, it's Lewis, the receiver, who lowers his head more than anyone. Which you are still allowed to do in an effort to brace for, or avoid, contact as an offensive player. You just can't initiate it.

I think.

I assume.


Regardless, in so doing, Lewis brings his strike zone downward. And I thought both defensive backs did a good job of turning their shoulders into Lewis' torso and avoiding a helmet to helmet shot.

Watch again. Both the initial — and primary — points of contact on Lewis' body from both Steelers were from the shoulder to the strike zone.

There was a call anyway.

If the officials are going to be THAT anal retentive about making a lowering/leading with the head call, then someone needs to explain to me how much lower a defender can go with his shoulder while keeping his head perfectly upright.

That's not a natural human motion at half speed, let alone running in an NFL game.

Furthermore, if Sensabaugh had stayed more upright, then he would've gone helmet to chin just like Jacksonville's Barry Church did to New England's Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship Game. Similar play. Similarly sized pass catcher moving downward over a smaller defensive back.

I'm not complaining about the penalty impacting the game. It was preseason. Who cares about the result? I'm complaining in advance about the train wreck this rule will create for the 2018 regular season.

When barstool Yinzers now grumble about how football was "back in their day" and how "we should just put flags on them now," it's no longer old man hyperbole.

That's the next step.

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