Bills Safety Sends Strong Message to Steelers QB After Controversial Hit

Damar Hamlin, Kenny Pickett

Getty Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills tackles Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Highmark Stadium on October 09, 2022.

The Buffalo Bills were so dominant against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, October 9, that at the top of the fourth quarter, with a 38-3 score, they benched quarterback Josh Allen, allowing backup Case Keenum to take over the reins.

While Allen put up a historic performance, scoring four touchdowns while completing 20-of-31 passes for 424 yards, which is the most a Bills player has ever passed for in regulation, Buffalo’s defense did an outstanding job stopping Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett, who was making his first-ever career start in Week 5.

However, with such a lopsided score, tempers flared between the Bills’ defense and the Steelers’ offensive line late in the third quarter, and the culprit came from an unlikely source, safety Damar Hamlin, who was teammates with Pickett at the University of Pittsburgh.

After Pickett ran the ball himself for 10 yards into the Bills’ red zone, he started to slide near the right sideline when he was hit by Hamlin. While the refs did not throw a flag for a late hit, Steelers right guard James Daniels took the situation into his own hands and shoved Hamlin to the ground after the play, causing a fight to break out on the sidelines.

Daniels and Steelers’ lineman Kevin Dotson, clearly incensed by what appeared to them as a late hit on their quarterback, were both flagged for unnecessary roughness. However, Hamlin told reporters after the game that he made the play with no ill intentions against his friend.

“You see there was no flag,” Hamlin said. “But like I told him on the field, ‘You’re my brother. I’m not going to hurt you or play dirty.’ He know that. I’m playing within the lines of the game. If you supposed to slide, you gotta slide or you’re gonna get hit.”

Daniels, however, couldn’t believe Hamlin didn’t get penalized. “He’s our franchise QB,” Daniels said of Pickett, as tweeted by PG Sports Now‘s Brain Batko. “I’m shocked they didn’t throw the flag.”

Steelers Head Coach Said He Had a Problem With the Refs, Not Hamlin

While Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin admitted, “We got smashed,” during his postgame press conference, he was frustrated with the lack of calls, especially when it came to Hamlin’s hit.

“I had a problem that the officials didn’t have a problem,” Tomlin said. “Not necessarily Hamlin. I love Hamlin. He’s a 412-er. He plays hard. He’s a good kid. I have a problem that it wasn’t officiated in a way that I anticipated it being officiated.”

Several decisions made by referee John Hussey came under scrutiny following the Bills win, including a non-call on Buffalo’s Shaq Lawson after what appeared to be a low hit on Pickett.

When asked about Pickett’s reaction, ““Appropriate,” Tomlin said, per SB Nation.

Hamlin Spoke About His Friendship With Pickett Prior to Kickoff

Damar Hamlin

GettyDamar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after a missed Pittsburgh Steelers field goal during the second quarter at Highmark Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York.

Hamlin, who entered the NFL Draft a year before Pickett, discussed how he and the newly-minted Steelers starter will always be friends leading up to their Week 5 matchup, and opened up about how amazing it is that they’ve both made it to the big league.

Hamlin was drafted by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft while Pickett was selected as the No. 20 overall pick by the Steelers this past year.

“That was a thought far along and down the line that you can’t even think right now because you needed to be focused on what you have to focus on,” Hamlin said of their playing days at Pitt, per Bills reporter Grace Heidinger.

“But if we both handled our business, it’s something that could’ve happened and here we are…. We stay in each other’s lanes, but when we cross paths, it’s all love no matter what.”