Tomlin Said He Understands “Helmet Flying Off Rule” Following Loss

There will be a lot of talk about the final Pittsburgh Steelers drive Thursday night in their 22-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and most of it will center around the reversal of the touchdown by running back Le’Veon Bell because his helmet flew off just before he broke the plain of the goal-line with the football after being hit by Ravens quarterback Jimmy Smith.

Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if the right call was made during his post game press conference.

“That is the call that they made,” said Tomlin. “I understand the rule that when a runner’s helmet comes off the play is over. The issue I had I was told on the field the touchdown was confirmed by multiple officials. Then they reviewed it. That is my issue from a mechanics standpoint. I understand the rule, when the helmet comes off the play is over.”

Bell, who was knocked out cold on the play, was hit helmet-to-helmet by Smith. There was no penalty called on Smith on the play because the officials deemed the play either being inside the tackle box, which runs tackle to tackle, or within three yards from the line of scrimmage.

Bell was indeed well outside of the tackle, and in fact, five or so yards outside of the hashmarks. We will have to see if there is more clarity on how far the tackle box extends outside of the tackles, but the basis of no flag being thrown on the play might be that the play happened within three yards of the line of scrimmage.

Needless to say, we will be talking about this play for a while.

This new helmet-to-helmet rule was just instituted this season and Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer was fined earlier in the season for hitting Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte with the crown of his helmet. On that play, however, Dwyer was a good 20 or so yards down the field.

  • yournightmare

    Total BS rule.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    He should at least be able to finish his “football move” when this happens

  • CrazyTerry

    It is a dumb rule. I agree with Kevin. It makes sense to whistle the play dead once the helmet is off. But for heaven’;s sake, how can you negate part of a football move? That is really nitpicky and not in the spirit of the rule. That rule can’t prevent the move from being completed as it was all in one motion., in fact, I remember some plays being whisteld dead in other games and the such nitpickiness on where the helmet came off wasn’t done to the inch.

  • Rory

    The rule makes no sense. Does it only apply to the ball carrier? What if someone else’s helmet comes off, like a defender’s? Aren’t they in just as much danger?

  • Elijah Stevenson

    All four attempts in the endzone failed. But going back to this the call was total crap he was in for the TD was he ?

  • Elijah Stevenson

    When did they make this rule anyway ?

  • Nolrog

    The call was the correct one based on the rule. But the bigger question I have is that why wasn’t there a flag for the helmet to helmet hit? Is that only a rule when Steeler players hit someone in the shoulder pads?


    In a similar play involving New England. Tom Brady was 15 yards away and suffered grass stains to his uniform so the NFL thought they needed to put a stop to this.


    I like that.

  • Bradys_Dad

    Could there have been a helmet to helmet call on the Ravens? It didn’t and doesn’t appear to me that the DB made any effort whatsoever to use anything but his head/helmet to contact Bells. Since Bell lowered his head not for the purpose of driving in to someone but rather to find space, it certainly can’t be a RB helmet call. Any thoughts?

  • yournightmare

    it clearly has control of the ball when he lost his helmet, when he hit the ground with this head that’s when he gets unconscious, so even with this rule who suppose to save players for other injuries, that didn’t help. You could even cheat the rule to get a free time out in a 2 minute drive, you have your runner losing his helmet in a simple run where he even drop it before hitting the scrimmage line and since yesterday they stopped the clock that could happen right?, This is why is a BS rule.

  • yournightmare

    It seems that the helmet-to-helmet rule doesn’t apply when they are inside the 10 yard and it is different for running backs than WR’s. So because it is not an open field tackle the helmet-to-helmet rule doesn’t apply, which is why all these rules are BS. One BS rule doesn’t apply to some situations but another BS applies at that moment. All those millions the NFL gets are invested in a group of BS guys thinking how to avoid law suits and implemented BS rules and this is the result, a gutsy play reverted by a BS rule. Thank you Goodell, you are a genius.

  • Mihkel Bafter

    That evens out the no interference call on Tomlin.

  • Nathan Cline

    NFL Rule 12 Article 8: Initiating Contact with the Crown of the Helmet. It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by
    delivering a blow with the top/crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle
    box (an area extending from tackle to tackle and from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage to the offensive team’s
    end line). Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.
    Note: The tackle box no longer exists once the ball leaves the tackle box.
    Penalty: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down. The player may be
    disqualified if the action is flagrant.

    Bell was clearly well outside the tackle box. Assessing a penalty would not have changed where the ball would have been placed but it would have given the Steelers a first down instead of the 3rd or 4th down which would have allowed them to 1 run down more of the clock if they wished 2 use much more of their playbook to score and possibly by running a different play the 2nd string left tackle and center may not have been injured. In’ not saying that the results would have been different and that Pittsburgh would have won the game but that was about the clearest reason to have a rule to protect players from head shots and a no call shows exactly where the NFL is on the issue all show