By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If Ben Roethlisberger thinks there might be too many flags flying for roughing the passer, the Steelers’ quarterback is not exactly helping the cause.
Monday night’s game between the Steelers and Buccaneers in Tampa Bay included four combined penalties for roughing the passer in a span of just 13:23 in the first half. With the Clay Matthews call dominating the news on three straight Sundays, and the William Hayes injury making headlines on Monday, this eruption of roughing the passer calls was impossible to miss on the nationally televised Monday night broadcast.
It got to the point where even a quarterback like Roethlisberger has to question the frequency with which the flags are being tossed.
“There sure are a lot of them,” Roethlisberger said of the penalties. “I can’t imagine the fans at home are enjoying it too much.”
The quarterback also said: “I don’t want to criticize officiating, especially when you’re talking about a penalty that helps the quarterback out. But I was surprised at the first one.”
Roethlisberger’s comment is supremely interesting on this matter, for two primary reasons. For one, he is a quarterback — the beneficiary of this point of emphasis — so it’s somewhat strange for him to suggest that Gerald McCoy’s slightly late hit after a throw did not deserve a penalty. (The Steelers scored a field goal after being given those 15 penalty yards.)
But secondly, it was odd for Roethlisberger to criticize anyone on the officiating crew after his second-quarter flop that would have even made an international soccer player blush.
See for yourself:
Whether this contact from Jason Pierre-Paul’s hand to Roethlisberger’s helmet qualifies as a penalty is debatable at best. The rulebook states that referees must watch for defenders who “use hands … to hit the passer forcibly in the head or neck area.” Was Pierre-Paul’s contact “forcible”? It sure didn’t look like it. And while there was a rush on such penalties (unofficially, from the mid-2000s through the mid-2010s, when Peyton Manning’s dome was officially off limits), a bare hand hitting a hard, plastic helmet doesn’t often draw flags these days.
Interestingly though, this was a call that Roethlisberger agreed with after Monday night’s win. He said this one was “legit.”
“The second one, I thought was legit. He hit me in the helmet,” Roethlisberger said. “It was kind of like hearing that loud ring when your helmet gets hit.”
Granted, when most people hear a loud ringing, they don’t fall to their knees in agony. And watching the replay, it’s clear that Pete Morelli’s flag had not yet been thrown prior to Roethlisberger remaining down on the turf after withstanding that “legit” hit.
Nevertheless, the call was made, and the Steelers were gifted 15 yards to escape the shadow of their own end zone. They eventually punted, so in a way, it was no harm, no foul. But it certainly cost Tampa field position, and it created a video that Roethlisberger — rightly considered to be arguably the toughest quarterback of all time — didn’t convincingly explain. (That wasn’t Roethlisberger’s first flop, either.)
It was a flop, plain and simple, one right out of the World Cup or NBA manual on flopping. (Foreword written by Manu Ginobili; afterword by LeBron James.) And in an NFL where the officials have enough problems enforcing the roughing the passer rules, nobody needs to add a flopping element to the equation, no matter how “legit” the crushing contact may be.