Smith’s hit on Bell wasn’t a violation of new helmet rule
Steelers fans had multiple reasons to be upset regarding the play that looked like a touchdown, but that wasn’t.
Apart from the rule that prevented running back Le’Veon Bell from scoring a touchdown because his helmet flew off before the ball crossed the goal line, questions have emerged regarding whether a hit to Bell’s helmet from the top of the helmet of Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith should have drawn a penalty.
Per a league source with knowledge of the manner in which rules are interpreted and applied, Smith’s hit did not violate the new “crown of the helmet” rule. While the hit occurred outside the tackle box and with the top of Smith’s helmet, he didn’t “line up” Bell.
As the source explained it, the rule is intended to prevent players from taking a direct line at an opponent to deliver a battering-ram blow with the crown. Here, Smith didn’t.
In contrast, linebacker Courtney Upshaw seemed to line Bell up at the goal line -- but Upshaw failed to actually deliver a blow with the top of his helmet.
If a flag had been thrown, the half-the-distance placement would have been inconsequential. But the Steelers would have gotten an automatic first down, making it easier to score the touchdown they scored anyway.