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NFL: Steelers' hit on Bengals' Kevin Huber was penalty

Kevin Huber's season came to an abrupt and violent end Sunday night when the Cincinnati Bengals punter was leveled by a block during an Antonio Brown touchdown return.

Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, has confirmed what had been speculated upon: Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin should have been penalized for the vicious hit.

"Huber, he's a punter. And the key is he's defenseless throughout the down," Blandino said Tuesday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access." "So even though he's pursuing the play, he still gets defenseless-player protection. You can't hit him in the head or neck, and you can't use the crown or forehead parts of the helmet to the body."

On the play, Garvin lines up Huber then goes up high, driving his helmet under the punter's facemask. Huber suffered a broken jaw on the play and might have cracked a vertebrae. He's been placed on injured reserve.

"This is an illegal block. It should have been a flag for a 15-yard penalty," Blandino continued. "You'll see the close-up where you can see the contact to the head or neck area. So this will certainly be a point of emphasis this week, especially with our referees who are responsible for the punter on plays like this.

"We have to watch the punter, he's defenseless," Blandino added. "And we want to flag hits like that."

Garvin can safely assume a FedEx envelope will be sitting on his locker stool in the near future.

Watch Dean Blandino's explanation of this play and Michael Crabtree's unusual unsportsmanlike conduct penalty tonight at 8 p.m. ET on "NFL Total Access."

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