All-22 Shows Mike Mitchell Shouldn’t Be Fined For Hit On Alex Smith

A lot has been made about the Sunday low hit by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Mike Mitchell on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. Several have since called Mitchell’s hit deliberate and on Monday the safety defended his actions.

“I felt myself tripping. I felt myself being pushed. I felt myself losing balance,” Mitchell said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I was aware of the rule. If you watch the tape, I’m even trying to turn my body while I am falling. Alex is backpedaling into me. I wasn’t even going in the direction of Alex. He actually is throwing and fading away. It’s a lot of things that go into the play that make it an accident that you don’t want to see — but that’s exactly what it is.”

Now that the all-22 tape of Sunday’s game between the Steelers and Chiefs has been released, I have been able to zoom in on Mitchell’s feet as he’s chasing Smith from behind. I have slowed down the tape and I think you can clearly see that Mitchell gets his foot stepped on by Steelers outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo and this in turn causes him to fall forward.

Personally, I think this exonerates Mitchell of any wrong doing on this play and I don’t think he should be fined for hitting Smith low. If he is fined, he should appeal.

Now, while Mitchell might not ultimately be fined for that low hit on Smith, he might be fined for his hit on Chiefs running back Charcandrick West with two minutes left in the first half. You can see that hit below along with the rule that Mitchell may have violated.

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:
A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass (passing posture)
A receiver running a pass route when the defender approaches from the side or behind. If the receiver becomes a blocker or assumes a blocking posture, he is no longer a defenseless player.
A receiver attempting to catch a pass who has not had time to clearly become a runner. If the player is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player
The intended receiver of a pass in the action during and immediately following an interception or potential interception. If the player is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player.
Note: Violations of this provision will be enforced after the interception, and the intercepting team will maintain possession.
A runner already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped
A kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air
A player on the ground
A kicker/punter during the kick or during the return (Also see Article 6(h) for additional restrictions against a kicker/punter)
A quarterback at any time after a change of possession (Also see Article 9(f) for additional restrictions against a quarterback after a change of possession)
A player who receives a “blindside” block when the path of the offensive blocker is toward or parallel to his own end line.
A player who is protected from an illegal crackback block (see Article 2)
The offensive player who attempts a snap during a Field Goal attempt or a Try Kick
Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is:
forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact is lower than the player’s neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him
lowering the head and making forcible contact with the crown or ”hairline” parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body
illegally launching into a defenseless opponent. It is an illegal launch if a player (i) leaves both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into his opponent, and (ii) uses any part of his helmet to initiate forcible contact against any part of his opponent’s body. (This does not apply to contact against a runner, unless the runner is still considered to be a defenseless player, as defined in Article 7.)
Note 1: The provisions of (b) do not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or helmet in the course of a conventional tackle or block on an opponent.

Note 2: A player who initiates contact against a defenseless opponent is responsible for avoiding an illegal act. This includes illegal contact that may occur during the process of attempting to dislodge the ball from an opponent. A standard of strict liability applies for any contact against a defenseless opponent, even if the opponent is an airborne player who is returning to the ground or whose body position is otherwise in motion, and irrespective of any acts by the defenseless opponent, such as ducking his head or curling up his body in anticipation of contact.

Penalty: For unnecessary roughness: Loss of 15 yards and an automatic first down. The player may be disqualified if the action is judged by the official(s) to be flagrant.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Interesting. I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that given the buzz and uproar over this play, the NFL will fine Mitchell anyway.

  • Sam Clonch

    Didn’t he start off this play with a facemask (after whiffing on a sack)? Pick your poison, but Mike’s getting a letter.

  • Doug Andrews

    After watching the angle the TV provided I did see Mitchell throw his hands up while falling to the ground. Gave me the impression that he wasn’t trying to injure Alex Smith. The all 22 angle confirms it for me that he was pushed and tripped so I don’t think he’ll receive a fine either. The hit on West is a different story.

  • Brenton deed

    I repeat a comment I made earlier:

    When judging the most successful scoring play in soccer, the dying swan dive to win a penalty, a kinesthetic scientist gave this hint when they were discussing it on a TV show. His input was:
    When a player genuinely trips or is tripped his first reaction is to save himself from an uncontrolled fall by thrusting his arms out to break the fall. When he fakes it he doesn’t… he normally indulges in some form of theatrical display. He knows he’s going to fall and is prepared, what he’s interested in is getting the ref’s attention.

    Mitchell’s first action was to thrust his hands forward so I give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • Rob

    I didn’t catch the game so I missed that hit on West. He deserves a fine for that no doubt, and a penalty should have been called. But Shazier and Watt go to tackle with the exact same form, so the tackling needs to be corrected by the coaches, or we’ll end up like the Bengals.

    Probably why Hilton is such a solid tackler and those two usually aren’t. Their form is terrible.

  • Stairway7

    Mitchell’s first reaction to most plays he’s involved in is to jump up and down and applaud himslf for making tackles 40 yards down the field.

  • Grant Humphrey

    He’ll get fined anyway unfortunately.

  • NW86

    Thanks Dave. At no point have I thought Mitchell did anything wrong or intentional on that play, but I think this confirms it. Unfortunately I think half the time the NFL is reacting to outside noise, and they definitely let their decisions be swayed when it’s a player who has been considered dirty before (just ask Deebo), so he may still get fined anyway.

    As for the hit on Hunt, it does look worse but I don’t know that you can call him defenseless. Hilton is hanging on to him, but he is still making some forward progress. That one is a close call.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    football* not soccer.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    the other clip is west not hunt. although mitchell did hit akeem hunt bad too.

  • T R

    I just don’t understand why a person would want to spear your helmet against someone else helmet as if your helmet made of something differnt. Seems you risk yourself being hurt just as much as the person you hit.

  • Ken Krampert

    If he didn’t miss the sack to begin with, there would be no controversy. Typical underwhelming, garbage play from our worst player on defense. It is time for everyone to stop making excuses for this personal foul making, poor tackling, over celebrating, no turnover having, loud mouthed, over paid, bum bastich……

  • Michael

    Can Depot team make a GIF showing how Mitchell whiffed on the sack of Alex Smith? It’s the same GIF on the controversial dirty hit but 3 seconds earlier. Please?

  • Michael

    Was Mitchell faked out by Alex Smith’s juke move missing an easy sack?

  • David Shoff

    Matthew, I don’t understand why the second hit would be a penalty, unless the whistle had already blown. The rb was clearly trying to get more yardage.

  • pittfan

    i thought Chick had his hand on Mitchell’s back and gave him a slight push forward as well.

  • pittfan


  • Intense Camel

    Something about that sound.

  • stan

    I don’t understand this “defenseless posture” rule. Using the West play as an example, he’s still fighting and actually gaining ground when Mitchell hits him. The Trevaithan hit was one thing because the runner was already being pushed back, but West is a running back who is actively dragging his opponent forward.

  • Andrew

    Agreed, he was actively gaining more ground with only Hilton trying to take him down. His progress wasn’t stopped, though he still may technically be “defenseless.”

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    He did

  • Dan

    Shazier, Watt and Mitchell are all leading with the crown of their helmets. I guess if they see how loosely the ball was secured, they might be going to force a fumble, but geesh somebody’s going to end up in a wheelchair if they don’t enforcing proper tackling.

  • Mark

    Disagree, having played football Mitchell could’ve easily swiped with his arms instead of going into him with his shoulder pads/helmets. Mitchell knew exactly what he was doing.

  • Mark

    Totally agree, with him screaming at the top of his lungs as the referee signals a 1st down. This dude is an idiot, so instead of being pissed they made a 1st down he’s excited over the hit. He has 4 int’s in 54 games with the Steelers.. 4 Int’s, he has more stupid penalties than INT’s.

  • WB Tarleton

    Some people will exonerate a player they like and condemn a player they do not despite all evidence to the contrary. It is “invincible ignorance,” a quality in great supply here on The Depot.

  • Matthew Marczi

    This was Dave’s article, but I actually happen to be wondering the same thing. It seems to me that West’s forward progress was not stopped, either.

  • Jeff Laravie

    Two hits in one game, not to mention his past…it is BS if he is not suspended. Hard hitter? Yes. Dirty player?For sure. Only ones defending his actions are Steeler fans.

  • 6 ring circus

    Folks made such a squabble about Mitchell intentionally doing this on the initial thread and poo-poo-ed his defenders so much that it was laughable. I could tell from the initial footage provided that he got pushed and his feet had a slight change of direction indicating he tripped. I guess Mitch’s rep worked against him. I, myself, have called him out on occasion, but, this was obvious to me that it was unintentional. Now whether he receives a Fed Ex is another story.

  • nutty32

    Would have been nice to continue the “trip” clip all the way through to the moment of truth. No need for 23 to dive into Smith’s legs.
    Questioning that 2nd play, helmet-to-helmet, is ridiculous. No one can control that. Unlike the Bears guy, the play was well within the heat of the battle and Hunt still up for grabs.

  • pittfan

    It’s weird. It seems certain posters have their favorite voodoo dolls to poke. Luckily we have folks who look at film to separate BS from ice cream

  • Gautam Ramani

    Shazier needs to stop leading with his helmet. Should know this by now.

  • mokhkw

    They pretty much HAVE to fine him, they won’t allow excuses of getting pushed or tripped into an opponent by your own team-mate & they have shown that time & time again in the past.

    A few seasons ago a player was fined after he slipped while going in motion before the ball snapped and his feet contacted a pass rusher. Obviously a legit slip and no malice or intent but he got fined anyway because they can’t allow that sort of thing to become an “excuse” that other players could copy.

    Getting a fine doesn’t equal doing a deliberate act. Never has, never will.

  • kristopher fine

    dude is a cheap shot artist. end of story.

  • Brenton deed

    Hmmm “football” is the common term used for all these games played ON FOOT rather than on horseback. ( e.g polo and hunting which were sports of the rich)
    In england a few centuries ago each region/village had variations on the rules and around 1870 some were CODIFIED into: rugby football (rugby union/ “rugger”) association football (“soccer”)
    Now we have Rugby league football, Gaelic football, American football and Australian Rules football. All have equal and legitimate claims to the term “football” and in each society the dominant code is usually simply referred to as “football”.
    It’s strange that soccer tragics seem to think that soccer is sacrosanct. Some have complained that the other codes allow you to use your hands but soccer allows you to use your head and everything but your hands – by this logic it should be called “no hands ball”. Although I prefer “handbags at 10 paces”.

    Is 1500m race running? Is 100m sprint running? Same thing.

  • GravityWon

    When was the tackle which Watt lowered his head? His form is usually pretty sound.

  • Aj Gentile

    Did you even read the article?

  • LucasY59

    why read when hes only here to troll

  • Will

    Well it’s a tough thing. I mean what angle is Shazier supposed to take. Hell if anything the RB lowers his helmet as well.

    Watt looked like he was controlled, watch that in real time and it will be more obvious.

    Mitchell…well that was kinda bad. Suspect he will get a fine for that hit.

  • Will

    I think Smith more backs into Mitchell than anything else. The broadcast view you can see Smith back pedal and that momentum is what probably caused him to get into contact with Mitchell.

  • rdjmsr53

    No foul on hitting the running back. Once the runner was in the grasp,of the defender he shouldn’t have fallen down. He’s played long enough to know other tackler so would be coming up on him. He put himself and others in harms way by trying to get extra yards I do believe the runner was leading with his helmet.

  • razaard2

    Well if they think that’s “an excuse” they’re dumb, it isn’t something you can plan and execute, it just happens accidentally

  • mokhkw

    I have to disagree, I’ve seen similar plays before that involved shoving another player into a QB, either by the opposition or by a team-mate. While I’m not saying that this one was deliberate, how can you tell whether it is this time or the next? Imo that’s why they will fine him, just so they don’t have to deal with a bunch of copy-cat plays that they have no way of measuring intent or malice with.

    You go into the back of a QB knees, no matter the reason or excuses, it will always be a flag & a fine.

  • razaard2

    On the rulebook that’s a penalty now. if they start calling it tho, there will be a penalty every given play. You lower your head to tackle, you lower your head to break a tackle and protect yourself, so helmet to helmet hits happen routinely on the run game. Sometimes the timing and angles don’t help and you end up with crown at facemask instead of facemask on facemask. That’s how football is.
    When you make a routine play allegedly a personal foul and a fine, you’re actually giving the league the responsibility of taking a judgement call and decide which ones deserve to be punished for what everybody does. I don’t doubt Mitchell will be made an example of, especially given his reputation.

    The hit on Smith tho, totally clean. Unlucky, unfortunate, but not dirty

  • razaard2

    Well I guess Burfict could grab a teamate and throw him at Ben’s knees if the rules allowed him to. Not Chickillo tho
    Burfict will probably do it despite the penalty and the flag anyways

  • #beatthepats

    Funny how he can take a perfect angle “falling”into the Qbs legs, but takes a candy cane angle on his feet to miss a tackle.

  • Dan

    At the end of the bottom gif. His was actually pretty mild, but he did put the crown of his helmut into the guy’s shoulder pad. Low impact, but still….

  • Dan

    Agree Watt’s was pretty minor, but I’m supposing Shazier’s already had this talk and he wasn’t seeing what he was hitting. Just think Mitchell and Shazier in particular are playing dangerous.

  • Dan

    I think there are cases where a player is trying to put his hat on the ball (which is a good thing) but then there’s a helmut or a knee or something where the ball was a second ago. But also, I’ve always been told you should see what you hit.

  • bwolf1190

    Every expert and former player I’ve seen has condemned this extremely late hit on Alex Smith. He made no attempt to avoid hitting him, but instead threw his hands up to make it seem unintentional. I watched Ray Lewis, Phil Simms, and Boomer Esiason all condemn this hit on Inside the NFL. Boomer going so far to say that he should be fined a minimum of 100K.

    The hit on Ware was a dangerous play. Period. Hitting someone helmet-to-helmet in that way is dangerous for both players and it is very poor tackling form.

    This guy is a dirty player, and while he may get judged unfairly sometimes, he has earned his reputation for a reason. There are highlight reels of all of his dirty plays. The NFL is supposed to be a brotherhood, and there is supposed to be mutual respect among players that discourages plays like these. These people have families and their well being is put at risk when players are as irresponsible as 23. He has no respect for his fellow football players.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    No. Only Americans call football soccer.

  • hexabyte

    I don’t actually see a white cleat stepping on or crossing a black one there, which is what I think is the basis of the “tripping” claim. I see them running close together and then the camera cuts to the left. And whatever that gif is supposed to be showing, it doesn’t show Mitchell tripping and falling as a consequence of this tripping. Inconclusive and given that it’s Mitchell, people have good reason to be skeptical. In actual video, he appears to be launching himself. Appears to be. Not saying that’s what happened. Pretty unimpressive video quality from All 22 or a bad gif recreation.

  • Brenton deed

    Not so. Australians New Zealanders South Africans all call it soccer. I’m Australian. You can even hear the term used in England especially in the midlands. In fact the ONLY place in the English speaking world where soccer is called football is in the U.K. because, as I explain above, it is the dominant CODE of football played there.
    You really should check your facts before making claims … if you’re wrong it makes look like a goose.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    eire calls it football, the north calls it football. england calls it football. portugal calls it futebol. spain calls it futball. france calls it football. italy calls it calcio which means football.

    as far as austrailia, thats funny because i have been to austrailia and new zealand and when asked about matches there outside of rugby they did not refer to it as soccer, they referred it it as football.

    i cant speak for south africa, having only been to mid and north africa.

    but the point is moot now. im done responding to this thread line.

  • Brenton deed

    Non English speaking countries have no weight!! For instance an Italian style ice cream is called “a gelati”
    (Same thing for panini zucchini etc) yet it is a plural form. Does this mean we should all go to Italia and tell the Italians to drop the singular “gelato”? Rediculus.
    As for Eire they play a “mixed” rules game with the Australians every four years or so ( since the two codes are closely related) and they refer to there Gaelic game as “football”.
    As for Ulster: that’s part of the UK

  • Melo D

    Mitchell does this crap every game. The guy is as dirty as they come. He constantly spears people, but hey someone stepped on his foot so that made him lower his head and blast a guy that was already wrapped up.. Please. Keep dreaming.Mitchell gets a pass because the Steelers have a big fan base and make the NFL a lot of money. If the guy played for the Browns he would be suspended given his dirty hits in the past.