I never root for injury. I was a Buckeye fan when during the National Championship game in 2002 against Miami running back Willis McGahee had his knee destroyed on a legal hit. I almost had the same feeling last night when I saw the hit Reggie Nelson had on Le'Veon Bell. I didn't want the player to be injured.
But, he was injured. For how long we don't know. He could potentially miss the first round playoff game when the Steelers host the Ravens. That could be devastating for a team that has relied on his production this season. It was an unfortunate hit and loss for Pittsburgh. However, it wasn't dirty. Not even a little bit. We had to hear about how football is a "man's game" when punter Kevin Huber suffered a broken jaw and facial fractures against the Steelers on a "legal" hit.
We heard about it before that when Hines Ward blindsided linebacker Keith Rivers, ending his season.
James Harrison celebrated destroying Mohamed Massaquoi on the Browns with a hit that wouldn't be legal now.
And the Bengals playoff run of 2005 was essentially ended on a hit (to the knee) from Kimo Von Oelhoffen on Carson Palmer.
This post may come as sour grapes, and sure, that may be partially true. It is also a reminder that football is a violent sport. Players take big hits and sometimes get hurt. On a partner site, BehindTheSteelCurtain.com you can read the Steeler fans' opinions of the hit and of Reggie Nelson as a player. This is what partially fueled my post. One observation read:
"Clearly, it appears that Nelson targeted Bell's knee. Unfortunately for Nelson, he has a bit of a reputation as a "dirty player," meaning the scrutiny he's about to face will be sizable to say the least. "
Never have I heard Nelson referred to as a dirty player. So my instant reaction to this comment was to discredit it as coming from a fan being upset that their team's star player was hurt. To which the appropriate response would be to explain the hit was legal and that this is football, "A man's game", and that sometimes injuries happen. But, I didn't have to. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did that for us. In his post game press conference he commented that the hit was legal and that he respected Nelson as a player.
Nelson made a tackle on the bruising back by going low. Had he gone high there was potential for a flag. He followed the rules, and unfortunately hit Bell as his leg was planted. Half a step before or after and this is a fine tackle. There's no way a player at that speed times that hit like that. Nelson went low to make a legal tackle. End of story.