Pittsburgh Steelers pass-rusher T.J. Watt has been fined $20,054 by the NFL for “forcibly hitting in the knee area or below” while attempting to sack Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Watt’s older brother, Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt, was incredulous upon hearing of the news:
J.J. Watt also tweeted “That is insanity” in response to Schefter’s report about his brother’s fine.
During just about every NFL game at this point is a controversial roughing the passer call, with the NFL’s new emphasis on protecting quarterbacks and banning defensive players from driving quarterbacks into the ground on sack attempts or landing on them with their full weight.
“I think they just sometimes lack common sense,” Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said of the rules earlier in the week, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “I get it. We want to protect quarterbacks, and I completely understand that. They’re the lifeblood to our game. But it’s really hard to do your job, and it’s having an effect on some games.”
“A lot of guys are coming in… to try to hit the quarterback, and we’re second-guessing ourselves,” Eagles defensive end Chris Long added. “We don’t know where to hit him or if we should hit him in certain situations. So it’s going to be tough. I guess we’ve got to adapt.”
In T.J. Watt’s case, hitting a quarterback around the knees has been illegal for some time now. But J.J. Watt’s surprise at the fine—and T.J. Watt’s surprise at even being penalized—came from the fact that he appeared to make an effort to pull away from the contact and didn’t bring Ryan to the ground.
“I understand the rules. I’m not a dirty player,” Watt said after the game, per ESPN.com. “I tried to pull off him at the end. Whether the ref saw it or not, I understand why they call it. It was a low hit. But I tried to pull my arms off. … It puts us in a bind because I don’t know what else I can do.”
Watt has been proficient at getting after quarterbacks this season and is tied for the NFL lead in sacks with six, to go along with 28 tackles and a forced fumble. His attempt on Ryan was an expensive one, however.