Glaring Omission Following Brown TD Should Be League’s Biggest Concern

A lot of things about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night were ugly, and avoidable. But perhaps the most egregious and concerning thing that took place on the field was the fact that wide receiver Antonio Brown was not pulled from the game by the independent neurologist to be evaluated for a concussion.

The incident came with about seven minutes left to play in the game. Ben Roethlisberger just delivered the pass to his favorite target with goal to go, and Brown caught it toward the back of the end zone, having gotten free of the cornerback in coverage.

But he wasn’t all on his own. The safety, George Iloka, came in late, attempting to dislodge the ball, and in the act proceeded to make contact with the receiver’s head. In spite of the obvious hit to the head, which was known at the time, because Iloka was flagged, there was no effort whatsoever to evaluate the receiver.

This is in spite of the fact that Brown remained down on the ground for a few seconds, no doubt at least in part to celebrate, but also because he had just taken a significant and clear shot to the head. He even made a remark to reporters after the game, something to the effect that he was dazed. I don’t have the direct quote handy so I don’t want to put too much emphasis on it, but it only reinforces the fact that there is no excuse for him not to have been evaluated.

The league spent the next day having kneejerk responses to certain hits in the game, suspending both Iloka and Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, but what they should be overreacting to is the number of incidents this season in which a player has been allowed to continue to play after taking a hit, only later—often in the same game—to report concussion symptom.

There is supposed to be an independent ‘spotter’ monitoring the game, watching every play for possible concussive hits. We have seen this play out. A couple of years back, Antwon Blake was briefly pulled from a game while he was still with the Steelers after he seemed to have some impact to his head.

Why the league is slacking dramatically in this area is baffling to me. While they are emphasizing player safety, or at least paying lip service to it, they are allowing concussed players to continue to play until they feel symptoms. The spotter is supposed to prevent this from happening.

The number of incidents in which there has not even been the slightest attempt at evaluation this season is deeply discouraging. Whether or not Brown is fine after taking that hit—he immediately joined the ESPN post-game commentators—is immaterial to the fact that the hit that he took warranted him being tested for possible concussion symptoms. It is just the latest in a series of failures in a system that the league doesn’t appear too concerned about.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Conserv_58

    Very good article, Matthew. I couldn’t agree more.

    I find it highly laughable that Jerry Jones seems to be the only owner to recognize that it is, Goodell’s highly questionable decisions and actions that have lead to the decrease in the owner’s and shareholder’s revenue.

  • Bill

    Your wires are crossed: That TD only tied the game and it was quite a while before Brown was on TV after the the game ending field goal. Of course he did leave the playing field of play immediately after the TD because he’s not on the extra point team.

  • LucasY59

    not that I want AB taking hits to the head, but IF there was a way to take that hit and not have an injury that was pretty much it, he was already leaning/falling away from the direction the hit was coming from and so it didnt have the impact that happens when the players are going in opposite directions (doubling the force)

    I think he wouldve been cleared if he was evaluated and his response after the hit was enough for me that I didnt think it was necessary

    I will say that for the league to cover their @$$ and make it really look like they care about player safety (I think they do a terrible job at safety and most of the stuff they have changed is either ineffective or the wrong approach to begin with) they probably should pull aside every player that takes a hit to the head (but even that is impossible since linemen do almost every play) it would slow the game down even more (and could negatively impact the outcome of a game if a player that is not injured is pulled out of a critical drive/series because they are being screened) so im not sure if there is a clear cut way for them to be better in these situations

  • walter

    And im not concerned about it either. It looks as if Ben looked into ABs eyes and asked him some questions. If anyone thought AB was experiencing symptoms he would have been pulled. It was a tough game and it may have been all for nothing if AB was pulled unnecessarily and we lost. After the game maybe he was looked at. But the whole process is suspect. I read somewhere that every player in the nfl has CTE issues.. So there is just too much we dont know.

  • stan

    How do we know that he wasn’t evaluated? He didn’t return onto the field until after the Bengals went three and out.

  • Bill

    Your comments are not commensurate with the the facts; Since Goodell has been at the helm, the revenues have increased dramatically. Here’s a clue:the salary cap goes up every year – that doesn’t happen if revenues are going down.

  • treeher

    Why is it all on “the league?” Why would the team initiate review on its own? Or are you including the team in your definition of league?

  • DangZone

    Ive been waiting to see an article with Brown in Concussion Protocol since the game was over. That hit had to bounce the old brain around some.

  • gdeuce

    To evaluate them now, they are taken inside the blue tent.

  • Joseph Shaw

    Fair point.

  • CountryClub

    don’t give Jones any credit. He was all for Goodell during Deflate Gate. This is all about him being a spoiled brat and pissed off about Elliot getting 6 games.

  • CountryClub

    that as very interesting. I ‘ know what they were talking about, but Ben put his hand up on the side of Brown’s helmet so the camera couldn’t pick up his lips moving. See that all the time in baseball. Rarely in football (other than the coach calling the plays).

  • will

    Excellent point!!!

  • Following_Christ

    I wondered aloud the same thing when I saw the hit; why did he not go through the concussion protocol?
    Apparently Ben thought enough to examine him (I saw him cover the left side of AB’s helmet with his hand and stare into AB’s eyes looking for symptoms) in the sidelines right after the play, but obviously Ben isn’t a professional physician.

  • pittfan

    I think your critique is warranted but your conclusion that this is evidence that the league doesn’t care is too harsh. “It is just the latest in a series of failures in a system that the league doesn’t appear too concerned about.” It’s one thing to issue a mandate, it’s quite another to follow thru and execute that mandate without mistakes or shortfalls.
    If we step back and look at player safety concerns and steps to addresss them, the league has made huge leaps in the time I’ve been watching NFL games. Hits like we saw over the weekend were loudly cheered and featured in NFL Films productions promoting the game. Today, we have commentators looking at the very same plays, using them as an example of WHATS WRONG with the game.

  • PittShawnC

    wow, nice catch Matt. That never crossed my mind

  • PaeperCup

    Ben checked him out. Ben works for the league. Ben is the league. We’re all good.

    Jokes aside, I see this way too much. Another area of inconsistency for the league.

    As for Ben checking AB out, seemingly for concussion symptoms, maybe we are wrong on that. But I think he was, and I think it shows how concerned Ben of concussions and CTE. I think he’s really close to retirement because of all that and maybe even closer seeing his teammates get hurt.

  • pittfan

    I think his comments may be true forward looking. Decreased TV viewership, decreased attendance will be reflected in next years #s.

  • Steve

    Iloka reduced to just a fine. What a joke!

  • Eddie Cruz

    valid point. the league puts more emphasis on penalizing players that give illegal hits to the head but do a terrible job of implementing there own policies of in game evaluations. They should start fining themselves whats equal to a players fine and give it to the player that was neglected. If they really care about player safety right?

  • Obi Ryn Denobi

    They let it slide because coaches and teams don’t want their players pulled from games, anymore than the players themselves want to come out.

  • Ace

    Great call on this one. And the posters make good points as well. I didn’t see him being checked out, are we sure he wasn’t? Seems the NFL could put together a list of those that are checked out in each game, you know, as a way to determine “repeat offenders” for lack of a better term. If they are all on board with gathering info to be proactive, what’s the harm in compiling a list? For that matter, what about the players that induce these blue tent concussion checkups? Do they go on a list? If the Steelers sideline medical personnel didn’t check him out independently, why not? So many questions, for all the time and money this league burns through to still not get these things right is baffling.

  • Kevin Reich

    Good point.

  • Edo M

    The answer to this question is simple. AB didnt go into the protocol because Walt Anderson was the ref for this game. This guy should not be a ref..he’s the worst. His games are all like this…unfair/uneven penalty calling and no control of the games

  • Jason Dock Dudley

    didn’t some of the criteria state something about noticeable injury or impairment. Brown never lost focus,never once appeared phased by the hit. IDK for sure but I do recall that being one of the things they look for.

  • corduroyninja

    I thought the same thing, it seemed like Ben was checking him for a concussion.

  • Jason Dock Dudley

    Page 2
    Potential concussion signs (observable)

    Any loss of consciousness
    slow to get up following a hit to head
    Motor coordination/balance problems
    Blank or vacant look
    Clutching of head
    visible facial injury in combination with any of the above

    Brown exhibited none of these markers. There is also a spotter in the booth to evaluate the hit and player under the game day section. players do not have to go into the tent for evaluation unless signs are shown. The spotter can call for an evaluation if they think the player suffered a big hit likely to cause a concussion.

    My guess is the spotter and trainers observed browns reaction and did not see signs of impairment.

  • GravityWon

    Clearly the league is only concerned with ratings & avoiding litigation. Based on other things I’ve seen it would have surprised me if they had called for a concussion check.

    If the announcers had opined about it the league would have jumped in immediately to cover it.

  • GravityWon

    Hmmm…Burfict probably exhibits half these symptoms on any given day.

  • Conserv_58

    Yes revenue did increase under Goodell, but apparently you haven’t been paying attention to the fact that they have been on the decline, especially so this season. The NFL has taken a considerable hit in their revenue stream this season because millions of fans are so fed up with the Kapernick affect that they have turned their backs on the NFL. TV viewership, decresed stadium attendence and merchandize sales have dramatically decreased this season and the owners are feeling it.