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Refs Continue to Disappoint in Steelers’ Super Bowl Win

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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.

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About Chris Inkpen

  • MCH

    I thought Matt Hassleback’s statement afterwards was real classy, when he said, “They played good enough to win, and we didn’t.”

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    It certainly was a combination of both bad luck and bad execution, the latter being the real culprit.

    I can certainly understand the chopblock as the incorrect call — everything else was based on judgment.

  • RogerMDillon

    Great article, Chris.

    On Ben’s “TD” the ref ran in with one arm to mark the ball on the less than 1, but after seeing the ball over the goal line after Ben hit the ground, he then siganlled touchdown.

    “everything else was based on judgment.”

    Keep telling yourself that.

  • zingzing

    all told, the game would have been tied up 21-21 if the questionable calls had been called (or not called) correctly. who knows what would have happened from there. someone in pittsburg should speak up.

  • Druxxx

    DJ pushed off. It may not have been much of a push off, but he put his hand on the defender and pushed. Did it give him much of an advantage? No. Did he need to do it? No.

    But he pushed off, and right in front of the back judge.

    I would have to see all the angles of the holding call that negated the Stevens catch. As a former HS official, an OL player can keep his hands inside and still get a fist full of jersey. And thats one of the easiest holding calls to make.

  • Gabrielle

    I would really just like to say that even if the steelers did did win 21-10 in most peoples eyes. In my eyes we won, we went to the super bowl for the first and played are best that we could that day…we also won 17-14seattle because a lot of the calls were crap so i just dont count them…i think also the reffs were payed or bet on the steelers…so they called everything in there faver…but the game is over and done with and we will be back next year and i think it will take the steelers 26 years tell we see them back at the super bowl!!!

  • http://onlinesportsbettor.blogspot.com/ Sports Bettor

    The refs were a joke, and most of America thinks the same way.

    In my eyes, the Steelers did not win the Super Bowl.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Most of America also picked the 2005 USC Trojans as the best team of all time.

  • http://www.blogcritics.com Chris Inkpen

    Most of pundits on the major sports networks think so too. And I agree that they calls could go either way, they’re judgment calls obviously. My point is that there should be an aspect of the “institution” of NFL refereeing and on the NFL in general in constantly attempting to devote resources towards progressing the sport, and this aspect of the sport too. They’re adding 10 million in cap room this year because of increased revenue, can’t some of the money the NFL is making go towards formalizing and making a full time profession out of NFL referees so we can see some consistancy? Look at European soccer to see the emphasis they place on the fair play of their officials. Just a thought though, I’ll still watch it if they don’t.

  • robert godbout

    I strongly suspect that big big betting money was involved here, and that the refs, who receive paltry slaries compared to the players, were simply BOUGHT. that happens often, I’m told, in soccer. or figure skating !! (who DOESNT know that !!) this seemed so obvious, the favoritism was over the top, very blatant. it was a disgrace, I turned the game off after the first touchdown was disallowed. refs must be under intense pressure by LARGE (millions of $) private bettors to change the flow of games. they are surely given secret money. you will know when that ref suddenly buys a large boat or a swimming pool. it is disgusting. what a black eye for the nfl. SOLUTION- always have THREE refs ready to officiate the biggest games. then choose ONE just before the game. ie- the one least likely to be bought. this seems necessary for the biggest games, because face it- the betting is so intense … and mafia will be mafia.

    anyway- this is america. they will set up a commission now to whitewash it, maybe. thats what usually happens … I’d say it was the Las Vegas mob.

  • chuck

    a follow up investigation of the game calls should be performed, since this is a major game of an american past time sport. also it’s only fair to the ticket holders whom spent extra alot of savings to purchase those game tickets and time to watch supposely a fair game.

  • Paul

    I agree Chris that penalty on Hasselbeck during the return was bad. Matt hit the nail on the head when he said the other calls were judgement calls. One thing I don’t think, is that it altered the outcome of the game. Seattle would have continued to play poorly and the Steelers would just have scored again if they needed.

    Maybe we should be more like European football; the fans can just beat the shit out of each other in the stands like they always do.

  • Paul

    If your going to count non-calls, you should include the molestation that Seattle was calling pass blocking. Hasselbeck had all the time in the world to throw the ball and it was due to the offensive line holding like crazy and using take downs. Maybe if they got 2 points for each take down like wrestling they could have won the game.

  • Rob

    Let’s not forget the helmet-to-helmet on Hines Ward early in the game. The ref threw the flag then after some discussion, they picked it up. When they showed the replay, the Seattle player was shown tilting his head into Hines to initiate helmet-to-helmet contact. Silence could only be heard from the usually vocal Madden because they saw that a call had gone against the Steelers. If that penalty was upheld, the Steelers would have been driving and may have gotten their offense on track earlier in the game then actually occurred.

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