The NFL came down hard on Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt for an unnecessary roughness call in their Sunday Night Football matchup versus the Seattle Seahawks.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport posted on Twitter that the league fined Watt $10,815 for punching at the ball in an attempt to strip running back Alex Collins.
While 10 grand is chump change for NFL players — especially for Watt, who inked a historic contract with the Steelers in the offseason — it’s a matter of principle. Watt was merely doing what he’s paid the big bucks to do; force a fumble. Unfortunately for Watt, the referees and the league viewed it as punching the player, not the football.
The tweet button was still hot on Rapoport’s phone when Steelers fans took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.
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A little sarcasm goes a long way here.
Melissa, @mdrizzy22, is right. Watt will do it again next week, as he’s done 20 times so far in his five-year career (per Pro Football Reference), cleanly — without penalty or fine.
And then there are the non-Steelers fans who feel Watt actually punched Collins and intentionally at that.
One level-headed Seahawks fan saw the play for what it was, attempting to strip Collins of the ball.
Someone — a Browns fan (big surprise) — went so far as to call the play a racist act.
One Steelers fan put his anger aside to ask a very valid question.
The ‘Peanut Punch’
The style of play that Watt was going for was invented and perfected by defensive back legend, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman, over the course of a 13-year career. He forced a whole mess of fumbles, so many that the move was coined the “Peanut Punch” and has been mimicked — often successfully — by defenders. With 44 career fumbles, Tillman still remains sixth-ranked in the NFL (per Pro Football Reference).
Tillman’s teammates in Chicago had a love/hate relationship with the Peanut Punch. They loved it when Tillman created fumbles with his signature move during live game action but hated when he pulled it on them in practice.
On October 31, 2020, Adam Jahns of The Athletic paid homage to the Peanut Punch — on the eighth anniversary of Tillman’s four fumbles forced on the Tennessee Titans. In Remembering Charles Tillman’s NFL-changing ‘Peanut Punch’ with the Bears, Jahns wrote:
“We hated — hated! — Peanut in practice because we knew if we could catch a pass and run downfield, he’d come up and punch the ball out,” former Bears fullback Jason McKie told Jahns.
“And we got fined for that. So if you caught one in practice, it was like 50 bucks.”
NFL broadcasters still talk about the Peanut Punch to this day, six seasons after Tillman hung up his cleats. It’s a move so revered in the NFL world that there’s no question coaches coach it and defensive players try to emulate it.
Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was on the receiving end (pun intended) of a full-fisted Peanut Punch from Baltimore Ravens linebacker Marlon Humphrey in 2019. On a critical overtime play that Ravens.com staff writer Ryan Mink dubbed the “Pittsburgh Punch Out,” Humphrey not only dislodged the ball from Smith-Schuster’s grips, but he also recovered the fumble. It set Baltimore up for a 26-23 victory. (Two years later, I don’t think Smith-Schuster has ever forgiven himself.)
Turn Down for Watt
Through six games, Watt has produced an NFL-best three forced fumbles (per Pro Football Reference). And he’s just getting started. The All-Pro linebacker finished the 2019 season with eight – a career- and league-high.
Watt’s failed Peanut Punch left him a little lighter in the wallet, but we all know it won’t weigh heavily on his mind. It certainly won’t deter him from viciously punching the ball out of future opponents’ clutches. After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ next foe is none other than AFC North division rival Cleveland Browns.
Who will Watt’s next victim be? Baker Mayfield? Nick Chubb? Odell Beckham, Jr.? We’ll have to wait until Halloween to find out.