Football players love doing the officials’ hand signals. I love doing them, too, in my living room in front of the TV, so I cannot blame them. But there are certain ones that they seem to particularly enjoy. Touchdown, obviously. Pass rushers love whirling their arms for false starts. Receivers plead for defensive pass interference, and will do the little push-y motion just in case the field/back/side judge has forgotten the signal. Everybody loves calling a safety. But no hand signal is more common among players than the first-down point. I just got a first down. FIRST DOWN! [Point] They can’t get enough of it! Even when maybe they should skip it.
Pittsburgh WR Chase Claypool should probably have skipped it on the Steelers’ last possession of their 36-28 loss in Minnesota last night. Down a score, driving with under a minute left and out of timeouts, Claypool reeled in a nine-yard catch on a fourth-and-1 and decided to confirm to everyone watching, especially those TV viewers not watching with sound, that it was indeed a first down.
There’s a lot going on here. OG Trai Turner tries to grab the ball from a lackadaisical Claypool to return it to the new line of scrimmage. Minnesota’s Eric Kendricks might have slapped the ball, a crafty-veteran move. Whatever happened, the ball popped loose and a few needless seconds ticked off before the Steelers could spike it to stop the clock. Would those seconds have mattered? Very possibly; the game would end on an incomplete pass on a play run from the 12 with three seconds left.
Afterward, Claypool took some of the blame, but still had some left over for others:
“Definitely got to be better. I got tackled near the hash. Did my little first-down point. Went to hand the ball to the ref. He just got there. So, even if I got right up and looked for him, he wasn’t there. He ran down the field to come get the ball, and the ball got knocked out of my hands. That’s what cost us time. But I definitely do have to be better.”
(Ben Roethlisberger said “it’s not really my job” to talk to Claypool about this sort of thing.)
Hey Chase, I get it. I love the little first-down point too. But if it’s a Marshmallow Test and the reward for forgoing it is getting to put both arms up to signal touchdown, well, maybe let it go this one time.