Sunday’s game between the Steelers and Bills got extremely chippy in the second half, but the NFL kept officials from ejecting a primary instigator. It comes as a surprise to outsiders.
Late in the third quarter, Pittsburgh rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett — who was making his first-career start in a blowout — scrambled along the near sideline. As he approached the first down marker, he slid down to the turf just short of the line to gain.
Simultaneously, Pickett’s close friend and former University of Pittsburgh teammate Damar Hamlin, who plays defensive back for Buffalo, laid a very questionable late hit. The two made helmet-to-helmet contact but no flag was thrown.
In response, Steelers offensive lineman James Daniels stepped-in and threw Hamlin down to the turf. His actions sparked an even bigger reaction and the Bills sideline spilled onto the field and got after the opposing right guard.
After spending a fairly significant period of time being pushed, shoved, and open-hand punched in the middle of a mob, Daniels was able to separate himself from the group. Although Hamlin was not penalized, Daniels was.
Head official John Hussey even wanted to ejected the fifth-year veteran. But the NFL said no.
Following the game, James Daniels spoke about the on-field incident with Damar Hamlin, Kenny Pickett, the Bills and the Steelers.
Daniels said that he had Pickett’s back and was confused by the lack of flag on Hamlin. He thinks that other quarterbacks would get that call.
Daniels also said that the league office intervened. He also said that Hussey thought that his actions warranted an ejection, but that the NFL did not agree.
“He was going to kick me out,” Daniels said. “But he said he called New York, and they said that it wasn’t good enough to get me kicked out. So they let me come back in. So I appreciate New York for letting me come back into the game.”
As a consumer of football, this comes as a surprise. In most instances, it feels like the NFL is extremely quick with its trigger when it comes to incidents like the one on Sunday. While the numbers may or may not back that up, it certainly seems that way.
The No Fun League is usually quick to issue penalties and eject players for fighting and things of that nature. So the fact that the NFL let Daniels stay in the game despite Hussey’s desire to throw him out is refreshing. That is rare.