Dec 15, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin (57) tackles Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber (10) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers: Terence Garvin did football a disservice with brutal hit on Kevin Huber

The Pittsburgh Steelers got away with one Sunday night, but Terence Garvin won’t.

Late in the first quarter of their 30-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field, the Steelers got a punt return touchdown from Antonio Brown that increased their lead to 21-0 and made the visitors’ chance at a comeback minuscule. But the aftermath of that game-changing play was dominated by discussion on the devastating block Pittsburgh’s Garvin laid on Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber.

As you probably know, Huber left the game with a broken jaw and was later found to have a cracked vertebra in his neck as well. NBC replayed the hit many times, and it seemed to be a clean, if brutal play to most football fans.

However, as officiating sites like Football Zebras and eventually the NFL acknowledged, the block should’ve been flagged as unnecessary roughness, since kickers and punters are now considered to be “defenseless” throughout return plays. As such, they receive protection from being hit in the head or neck, or with the crown of the helmet in any part of the body.

The officiating crew missed the infraction, but WLWT-TV in Cincinnati reported Wednesday afternoon that Garvin, a 23-year-old rookie linebacker out of West Virginia University, will be fined $25,000 for the illegal block on Friday. For a first-year player trying to carve out a spot on the Steelers’ depth chart, it’s a significant bit of supplemental discipline.

While our FanSided brethren at Nice Pick, Cowher may disagree, what Garvin did to Huber was unnecessary and a detriment to the game of football. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said as much as his weekly press conference Tuesday on the South Side, saying “what he’s supposed to do and what transpired…are two different things” when asked about Garvin’s block.

First of all, even though Garvin got his name out in the NFL landscape with his attention-grabbing play, what did it really prove? Brown was already on his way up the middle of the field for the score when Garvin caught Huber in a vulnerable position. Realistically, all Garvin had to do was bump Huber upfield and Brown would continue untouched. It’s unlikely Garvin knew it was the punter he was about to “blow up,” but considering Brown’s quick feet and the clear path to the end zone, there’s no need to try to take a guy’s head off.

Football’s a rough game, and it’s not suited for people adverse to contact, but there is such a thing as respect for a fellow human being, no matter the context. Huber has handled his situation well, even using a picture of the hit as his Twitter avatar. Nonetheless, I would hope Garvin realizes the amount of force he employed was extraneous.

Intimidation is part of the game. A hit like Garvin’s might make opposing players be overly cautious against the Steelers in the future; one half-second of hesitation is enough to alter an NFL game, maybe an entire season at this time of year. But you can hit hard without performing amateur oral surgery.

Kudos to the NFL for constantly making changes to keep scenes like Sunday night’s to a minimum. The league’s executives may have liability on their minds more than empathy, but the sport is changing and we can either go along or fall behind.

Anyone still applauding what Garvin did needs to realize football can be great without hits like that.

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Tags: Kevin Huber NFL Pittsburgh Steelers Terence Garvin

  • Mangler

    great hit, he was going to try to tackle the runner, hardly defenseless. Perhaps kickers should kick the ball and run to the sidelines, tag a player to take their place and let “non defenseless” players make the tackle with the big boys….

  • bk

    Disagree 100%. It was a full speed play, chaos, and Garvin took out a potential tackler.. If you want to watch soccer, go for it. The wimpification of football continues.

  • Redd Mahoney

    If you abhor great hits so much….then maybe you go and write about golf. When a kicker/punter lays out a returner with a helmet to helmet hit, the booth announcers go bananas and want give him a standing ovation & it’s on all of the highlight shows, but if a kicker/punter gets laid out now they’re “defenseless”. What a joke! I have an idea. Football shall have no more contact…We’ll just place flags on everybody. HAPPY NOW!?

  • bk

    Matt… you ever play football? Full contact, full speed, on a punt return?
    Do you think he had time to identify if this guy was the punter or another tackler?
    If the NFL wants to protect them, make them wear a bright orange jersey with flashing lights on their helmets so players can tell who they can hit. Better yet, make em wear pink, same for th QB’s and receivers… they seem to be the only ones the NFL cares about protecting.

  • Redman

    Really? He did a disservice to football?! I thought he just did what he is supposed to do, that is help get his returner into the endzone! Once the punt is completed if the punter chooses to go after the returner then he gets what’s coming to him!! Matt maybe you should write about other sports like tennis, golf or tiddlywinks coz you got no idea!

  • Dom DiTolla

    Had you read my article on NPC, my issues was not with the hit itself. Garvin went too high (by the league’s pansy standards). My issue is with calling kickers and punters “defenseless” when they can choose whether or not to make plays on the ball.