Insane Steelers-Chargers finish included Cam Heyward ‘gut punch’ controversy



Cam Heyward avoided an ejection when he appeared to punch Justin Herbert in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s Chargers-Steelers game, but NFL Network reported on Monday that Heyward will “have his actions reviewed for a fine, not suspension.”

With nine minutes remaining, Los Angeles was leading Pittsburgh 27-20 and the pocket collapsed on a third-and-5. Herbert scrambled 36 yards to the Pittsburgh 11 — weaving left toward the sideline and cutting back up the middle. Heyward eventually chased him down and tackled Herbert from behind. Heyward shoved Joshua Palmer back when the Los Angeles wide receiver tried to pull him off the quarterback. 

That’s when Heyward rolled Herbert over on the ground and appeared to thrust his right hand into Herbert’s gut, drawing the unnecessary roughness flag that set the Chargers up for a touchdown to take a two-possession lead.

Heyward said after the game that he didn’t think he was trying to punch Herbert and “there was nothing behind it.”

“To be honest, I was running after the ball and I caught my hand under, and so when I was trying to get up, I couldn’t get up and I fell back on him,” Heyward said. “I know it looks terrible, (but) there was nothing malicious behind it.”

Cam Heyward appeared to punch Justin Herbert in the stomach on Nov. 21, 2021.
Cam Heyward appeared to punch Justin Herbert in the stomach on Nov. 21, 2021.

Pittsburgh rebounded to eventually take a 37-34 lead with 3:24, but Herbert’s 53-yard touchdown pass one minute later to Mike Williams served as the game-winning score. Herbert finished the night 30-of-41 with 382 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

“I haven’t really seen it,” Herbert said postgame about Heyward’s apparent punch, via the Orange County Register. “He’s a tough player. Football is an emotional game. Whatever happened, happened in the game. We’ll shake hands and say, ‘Good game,’ after the game.”

Mike Williams celebrates a touchdown against the Steelers.
Mike Williams celebrates a touchdown against the Steelers.

Heyward was selected by the Steelers in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and signed a four-year extension to remain with the team last season. Heyward made four Pro Bowls, earned two first-team All-Pro honors and has recorded 49 tackles and 4.5 sacks through 10 games this year.

Pittsburgh travels to Cincinnati next Sunday with a chance to move past the Bengals and into second place in the AFC North — with the Ravens and their 7-3 record holding the top spot.


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