The Steelers continued their storybook postseason with a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. There’s no need to go into how fitting it was for Jerome Bettis to end his career with a Super Bowl win in his native city or how Pittsburgh’s commitment to Bill Cowher finally paid off. What was apropos (and less hyped) is how Bill Leavy’s NFL referee crew capped a post-season of questionable judgments by referees with yet another football game marred by the striped crusaders.
Not to take anything away from the Super Bowl Champs. The Steelers played well enough on offense (after the first quarter) against a team that led the league in sacks with 50. Willie Parker set a Super Bowl record for the longest TD run at 75 yards. Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward had 123 yards and a TD that came from yet another “gadget play” thrown by Antwaan Randle El.
However, some of the most game-breaking plays came from officials that chose to make the refereeing too apparent. I count four out of ten calls and one non-call that ended up costing the Seahawks momentum and turning the biggest game of the year into a mediocre mid-season bout. The seven calls that were tallied against the Seahawks accounted for 70 yards in penalties, not to mention the yards they recalled.
The first call came when a Darrell Jackson TD pass was negated due to offensive pass interference. Understandably there was some contact between Jackson and Pittsburgh’s Chris Hope, but the pass interference call (which didn’t give Jackson an advantage) looked a lot like jockeying for position. But one call, that’s bound to happen in any game. Luckily it was only in the first quarter.
The next was a questionable touchdown by Big Ben that withstood the booth review. That’s OK though, since the Steelers probably would have converted on fourth and inches. It was the following call against the Seattle Seahawks that pretty much iced the game.
In the fourth quarter, with Pittsburgh leading 14-10, Matt Hasselbeck charged down the field and threw a bullet to tight end Jerramy Stevens at the one yard line. A touchdown would have been imminent (Seattle dominated the red zone during the regular season). Instead the referees called holding on #75 Sean Locklear, which upon replay even had John Madden calling foul.
Now it’s understood that most referees say holding goes on during almost every NFL down, but in order to call the holding penalty during such a game-breaking moment the ref should be able to point to an egregious foul. This replay showed no holding. Stevens’ catch was negated and a few plays later Hasselbeck tossed up an ill-advised ball only to see it land in the hands of Pittsburgh’s Ike Taylor.
As Ike Taylor charged down the field Hasselbeck did the only thing he could; lowered his shoulder and tried to make a tackle. Penalty. Hasselbeck called for a low block. Maybe … if he were blocking someone, but on a tackle that is perfectly acceptable. Pittsburgh awarded 15 yards putting the Steelers at midfield, where they have a propensity to call most of their trick plays.
And finally for the non-call. Joey Porter, Pittsburgh’s loudest pre-game player, managed to make one play on the outside all game. This play also happened to be a horse collar tackle on MVP Sean Alexander, but what else could one expect in this game. No call.
So the game hyped up enough to surpass its colossal numeral turned out to be full of flubbed arbitration. The one silver lining to come out of this season-long debacle could be heightened scrutiny towards NFL refereeing and maybe even progress.