Most of the third game of Thanksgiving had the feel of Thanksgiving itself around the same time: lethargic, bloated, leaving you wondering why you'd gone for that third helping. Baltimore was dominating Pittsburgh in all the ways that mattered save one; by kicking field goals rather than touchdowns, the Ravens left the door open for a late Steelers comeback. Sure enough, Ben Roethlisberger stumbled right through, and with less than two minutes left on the clock, the Steelers stood right at the edge of the Baltimore end zone, down by eight.
Then the refs got involved. A sharp pass from Roethlisberger to Heath Miller initially ruled a touchdown was overturned when refs determined that Miller's knee had hit the ground before he crossed the goal line. Two plays later, Le'Veon Bell charged toward the end zone ... and things turned ugly.
Bell's helmet popped off upon impact and skittered across the turf. Bell's unprotected head flopped backward, snapping against his neck and apparently colliding with the turf. Bell appeared either severely dazed or unconscious, and then came unfortunate, if less grim, news for Pittsburgh: because of a rule which indicates that play stops when a player's helmet comes off,
By the letter of the NFL law, the call was correct; if in fact the play stops, no momentum allowed, the moment a helmet comes off, then Bell wasn't yet in the end zone and the ball was properly placed. But the spirit of the law would seem to hold that a player in motion could remain in motion, and that the idea of stopping the play is to protect the player rather than freeze time.
As it would turn out, the Steelers would still score — that would be three touchdown signals in the course of five plays — but Pittsburgh couldn't convert the two-pointer and botched the onside kick, so Baltimore hung on for a 22-20 win. The win puts Baltimore at 6-6 and drops Pittsburgh to 5-7, breaking up the 5-6 logjam for the sixth and final playoff spot.
Much discussion over the next few days will center on Bell, specifically whether the no-helmet rule should have applied, and whether there was anything more that could have been done to protect his head in such a situation. He was being treated for a possible concussion when the game ended.