We should be used to this by now, but I don’t know that we in the Steeler Nation ever will; speaking of the phantom penalties that have been so plentiful over the years. On Sunday night against the Giants though, there were several more to add to the list but the flag against safety Ryan Clark was one that cost the Steelers at the time but worked out in the end.
It’s no secret that the term “Steeler Football” is in part referenced by the fact that the defense is not afraid to lay down the epic hit any time they get the opportunity to do so. Even the high commander Roger Goodell and his merry men in waiting, the NFL Officials, aren’t able to completely stop Pittsburgh from doing what they do.
With about 7:00 to go in the 2nd quarter, quarterback Eli Manning dropped back to pass as the Giants were threatening to score. He let the ball fly from about his own 6 yd line; pass intended for Victor Cruz, when Ryan Clark came flying in with a legal shoulder tackle that knocked Cruz into next week. As you can see from the video link, the hit was not a blow to the head, but rather a shoulder to rib tackle which is completely legal.
The foul was no doubt called due to Clark’s reputation as a lethal hitter rather than what actually happened on the play. Frank Schwab on Yahoo Sports points out: Clark didn’t go for Cruz’s head, nor did he use his head to strike the blow. He used his shoulder to hit Cruz in the ribs. Cruz was hurt on the play (he did return soon after) but that doesn’t make it illegal. And the batted pass technically hadn’t touched the ground when Clark delivered the hit.
The aftermath of that hit, as happens often in the NFL, was that Cruz spent the remainder of the night hearing footsteps and was not his usual productive self for the Giants offense. He’s no stranger to calling for a flag on a regular basis mind you, but after taking that hit he spent the remainder of the game calling for yellow hankies to be thrown even when the pass didn’t come his way. When you can get a high profile player out of his comfort zone it’s always opens up doors later on.
He did finish with 5 catches for 61 yds, leading all Giants receivers, but the damage was done as the Giants could not score a touchdown in the second half. For what it’s worth, Cruz has 52 catches for 650 yds and 7 TD’s on the year, but on Sunday evening the Steelers held him in check.
It’s that type of hit, the ones that knock you silly, that can take you out of your game and that scenario always goes in favor of the defense. That’s what the Steelers are known for and what has made them a feared defense over the decades.
There are some that would disagree, and say that there is never an excuse to try and knock out another player. I counter with, that’s football and no matter how politically correct the league tries to be these days there will always be players who value the traditions of football and play it the way it was meant to be. It’s dog eat dog out there and emotions run high, any loss can be devastating down the road. The Steelers live by that mantra on defense; one that has carried them since the 70’s dynasty teams. Certainly Ryan Clark is throwback, old school player that can be counted on to lay it on the line when necessary; fine or no fine, flag or no flag.
“Blitzburgh” may not be putting down the knockout blow quite as often as they used too, but in cases like the Giants game, it can have a positive effect on the outcome even though the penalty for such a play causes a temporary setback at the time.
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