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Was This Ravens Hit on Steelers QB Kenny Pickett a Penalty?




Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett felt this hit from Baltimore Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith.

Big time.

Early in the Steelers’ AFC North showdown at Acrisure Stadium, Pickett felt pressure from Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen. From there, Pickett avoided the sack –– initially.

Smith pursued, wrapping his hands around Pickett and slamming him to the ground for the drive-ending sack.


Pickett was evaluated for a concussion following that hit but was cleared to return to play without missing a snap. He and the Steelers offense went three-and-out on that drive, however, and Pickett headed to the locker room for further evaluation.

Mitch Trubisky replaced Pickett at quarterback and led the Steelers on a scoring drive capped off by a short Najee Harris run.

Following the Harris score, it was announced inside Acrisure Stadium that Pickett will not return to the game with a concussion.

This leads us back to that Smith hit on Pickett.

Was it legal?

Nope. No, it wasn’t.

Despite no flag on the play, officials could’ve called this one for an obvious reason:

Smith used Pickett’s facemask to aid with his tackle.

Observe, courtesy of @Tomlin_Sense on Twitter:

Per the official rulebook:

“No player shall grasp and control, twist, turn, push, or pull the facemask of an opponent in any direction. Note: If a player grasps an opponent’s facemask, he must immediately release it. If he does not immediately release it and controls his opponent, it is a foul.” 

Easy call there. Smith certainly does not “immediately release it” and instead uses it to control Pickett, aiding in the tackle.

Secondly, Smith stuffs Pickett into the ground with force –– something that can constitute roughing the passer.

However, Pickett was rolling out and still possessed the ball at the time of the hit, negating that particular call.

Back to the book:

  1. A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as “stuffing” a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided for in (a) above. When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player’s arms and not land on the passer with all or most of his body weight.

While Smith’s hit does qualify, the key phrases here are “after the passer has thrown the ball” and “during or just after throwing a pass.”

Pickett was simply rolling out with the ball in his possession here.

So, yes, a flag should have been thrown for the facemask –– but not for the unnecessary force.

As it sits, Pickett and the Steelers got no call and currently trail the Ravens, 10-7, with 5:35 in the second quarter following a Trubisky interception.

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