You Make The Call: Will Ben ever get the benefit of the doubt?

You Make The Call is a weekly feature from Steel City Underground which will challenge fans to examine officiating call(s) made in the previous Pittsburgh Steelers game. The goal is not to whine about calls, as we cannot change them long after the fact! Instead, this column is an opportunity to open discussion where fans can debate on and better educate themselves about the rules of the game.

What I’m about to discuss is common knowledge to Steelers fans: Ben Roethlisberger is not protected like other quarterbacks. For whatever reason, Rodney Dangerfield’s catchphrase “I get no respect” can be applied to the Steelers franchise quarterback in terms of how hits are permitted against him as opposed to other passers in the league.

That litmus test was on display again Sunday night, when in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger was hit late without a penalty called:

With the Steelers up 20-15 and just a little over five minutes remaining in the game, it was imperative that Detroit force the Steelers off of the field in this 3rd-and-15 situation.

Lions DE Ziggy Ansah, whoever, works his way past Pittsburgh LT Alejandro Villanueva, but then arrives late to Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

The potential decision for the officials here is whether or not to penalize Ansah with a roughing the passer call. According to the NFL rules, paraphrased for brevity in this article, roughing the passer is defined as:

Because the act of passing often puts the quarterback (or any other player attempting a pass) in a position where he is particularly vulnerable to injury, special rules against roughing the passer apply. The Referee has principal responsibility for enforcing these rules. Any physical acts against a player who is in a passing posture (i.e. before, during, or after a pass) which, in the Referee’s judgment, are unwarranted by the circumstances of the play will be called as fouls. The Referee will be guided by the following principles:

(a) Roughing will be called if, in the Referee’s judgment, a pass rusher clearly should have known that the ball had already left the passer’s hand before contact was made; pass rushers are responsible for being aware of the position of the ball in passing situations; the Referee will use the release of the ball from the passer’s hand as his guideline that the passer is now fully protected; once a pass has been released by a passer, a rushing defender may make direct contact with the passer only up through the rusher’s first step after such release (prior to second step hitting the ground); thereafter the rusher must be making an attempt to avoid contact and must not continue to “drive through” or otherwise forcibly contact the passer; incidental or inadvertent contact by a player who is easing up or being blocked into the passer will not be considered significant.

(b) 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 and 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.

There are other subsections of the same rule, but the first two apply most specifically to this situation.

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

Viewing this second hand after the fact, do you feel that Ansah had enough time to pull up on his hit? Does Ansah make more than one step following the release of the ball? Do you feel he can properly judge when the ball is released?

I have my own thoughts on the subject and considering my bias for the Steelers, you can probably guess what I feel the decision (flag or no flag) should have been. But I’d like to hear what everyone else thinks about this play, because, this feature is “You Make The Call”. So let’s see your comments below and I will share my opinions throughout the next few days.

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