In the final seconds of the game, A’Shawn Robinson had had enough. After taking a palm strike from Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey right to the face, Robinson went off, breaking through five surrounding Steelers while throwing a couple punches at offensive guard Ramon Foster. Robinson was tossed from the game that had already been decided, but he was still heated in the locker room.
When asked if he believed the Steelers play was dirty on Sunday night, Robinson told MLive without hesitation, “I think it was.”
Maurkice Pouncey out here throwing punches pic.twitter.com/tuUx3ebKs8— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 30, 2017
Robinson went on to accuse the Steelers of head shots and chop block and his linemate Akeem Spence seemed to agree. “Guys had been taking shots at us all game," Spence said.
On the play that sparked the fight, the Lions defensive line came hard at what was clearly going to be a kneel down play. Steelers players were clearly offended by the gesture and responded.
However, Robinson’s and Spence’s claims of dirty hits throughout the rest of the game are interesting. It’s not often that you hear defensive players complain about dirty shots from the offense. For what it’s worth, I saw at least one example of what could have been considered a chop block—first quarter, 3:52 remaining. Additionally Spence and David DeCastro got into it a little after a couple whistles, but nothing looked too out of the ordinary.
DeCastro, a two-time Pro Bowl guard, is not completely immune to controversies. Late last year, he was accused of stomping on a Bengals player, but did not receive a fine or suspension for the infraction:
Film (courtesy NFL): Watch David DeCastro deliberately stomp on Vontaze Burfict following a penalty on Marcus Gilbert. pic.twitter.com/N2n7QLSVTb— Connor Howe (@iamconnorhowe) December 21, 2016
However, outside of that incident, DeCastro has a pretty clean record, only being fined once in his career for an excessive facemask (per Spotrac).
For what it’s worth, head coach Jim Caldwell was not taking the bait. When asked if he saw anything dirty in the game film, Caldwell deferred judgement to the referees. “The officials are there to control the game,” Caldwell said. “They’ll make certain determinations. If they see something that’s illegal—they didn’t throw any flags. That’s what we go by, and the officials are seldom wrong.”
The Steelers offense was called for just three penalties: A false start, a hold and an offensive pass interference. The only time Pittsburgh was called for a personal foul penalty was during on defense after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Lions receiver Marvin Jones Jr.
Whether the Steelers played dirty or if Detroit’s response was worthy of a fine or suspension will be determined by the officials. For now, Caldwell says they will act internally regarding the actions of his own players.