Watson shoved a referee during the second half while arguing a facemask call, also appearing to bark at Steelers receiver George Pickens. The league announced on Tuesday that Watson would not be facing a fine or suspension stemming from the incident.
“Officials are called upon to maintain order on the field, and sometimes while performing those duties, there is inadvertent contact between players and officials. In this instance, in their judgment, the contact did not rise to the level of a foul,” a release from the league said.
It’s safe to say, Watson dogged a bullet. While there was no ill intent behind the push, there’s usually a no-tolerance rule when it comes to contact with an official. Per the NFL’s rulebook:
“Unnecessary physical contact with a game official. Under no circumstance is a player allowed to shove, push, or strike an official in an offensive, disrespectful, or unsportsmanlike manner. The player shall be disqualified from the game, and any such action must be reported to the Commissioner.”
The Browns have already lost star running back Nick Chubb for the year and could not afford to be without Watson for any amount of time.
That being said, Watson may face a fine for a pair of facemask penalties, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
Deshaun Watson Shoulders Blame for Browns Loss
Watson needs to minimize his distractions going forward and put all his focus on picking up his play on the field. He tossed a pick-six on the first play of the game against the Steelers and had a fumble returned for the eventual game-winning score in the second half.
Watson — who has passed for 389 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions this season — knows he has to be better.
“Still coming along,” Watson said of his play. “I feel like, tonight, it was s****y as far as that. There’s some plays that we capitalized and we did good, but as far as my part, it’s not good enough. I put that on me. The first play, yeah, we can get into the tactics of receiver running out and putting the ball out, and this, that and the third, but I got to give him a better ball. The forced fumble for a touchdown for them. We can say, ‘This guy can do this,’ but I’ve got to protect the ball. We’re not going to put it on anyone else. You put it on me. I can take the full blame, I can take the criticism and I’m going to do that.”
The Browns are now 1-1 after the loss and face the Tennessee Titans this week.
Browns Stress Protecting The Football After Loss
Since returning to the field, Watson has had a tough time with turnovers. The loss to the Steelers was a prime example
“I think for us as an offense, I think it’s very, very obvious. We can’t turn the ball over four times,” Stefanski said on Tuesday. “We call them giveaways. We can’t give them anything. You give credit to their team, but we have to do a better job of protecting the football. Really everybody that touches it.”
Watson is under extra pressure to perform, given that all the excuses of rust and distractions should be in the past. The Browns gave up a treasure trove of picks to land him as their franchise quarterback, also handing him a fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million deal.
With Chubb out, Watson has to be the catalyst for the Browns if they want to keep their hopes of making the postseason alive.