5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 15
The questions are going to be even more smolder-y than usual, because Hombre de Acero has a crazy week and only sent me three questions, and I’m still mad. So here goes. How could anything else be the subject of this edition? Yes, I’m going there, and we will be examining various aspects of The Catch That Suddenly Wasn’t. Feel free to use this as a cathartic experience…
1. After reading a Post-Gazette article in which writer Ed Bouchette fanned the flames pretty thoroughly, I did some research on my own. More on that in a moment. In his article, Bouchette says he isn’t accusing NFL Senior VP for Officiating Alberto Riveron of bias toward the Patriots, exactly, but he does present some interesting facts. Here are the salient points:
In three games this season the Patriots benefitted by the review of a called touchdown on the field.
Two of these rulings overturned the touchdown called on the field. The one which was not overturned was a pass to Brandin Cooks:
New England’s Brandin Cooks caught a 25-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left to beat Houston 36-33 on Sept. 24. He caught the ball with both feet in the end zone but lost control as he hit the ground out of bounds. It was ruled a touchdown, and Riveron did not overturn it upon review.
The Jesse James touchdown reversal is probably pretty fresh in your mind. The third touchdown was also reversed. It was to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and here’s how nj.com describes it:
This was a huge moment in Sunday’s game. The Jets were down 24-14 with 8:24 left in the fourth quarter. So the touchdown would’ve cut New England’s lead to 24-21. Instead, the Patriots got the ball back, and the Jets couldn’t pull off the upset.
Though Riveron defended his call Monday, two former NFL head of officials — Fox Sports analysts Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino — disagreed with the overturn decision.
(Both felt it should have stood as called.) The final score was Patriots 24, Jets 17. (They did manage a field goal on their final series.)
It’s interesting to ponder that, had the two earlier calls been adjudicated differently, the Patriots might actually have been 8-5 when they travelled to Heinz Field. Or had Riveron been consistent, they might have been 9-4. In either case the outcome of last Sunday’s game would be much less momentous for the Steelers. How does this make you feel?
2. Back to that research I mentioned. There have been other touchdown catches reversed this season. Most of them have had what seems like a direct effect on who won the game. Here are all the reversed rulings I could find:
Austin Sefarian-Jenkens had another fourth-quarter touchdown catch reversed upon replay, in the November 26th game against the Panthers, and the Jets lost by a score of 35-27. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the Jets in the same division as the Patriots? Just checking.
In the waning seconds of their September 24th match versus the Falcons, the Lions thought they had won the game with a last-second touchdown pass to Golden Tate. But because Tate was ruled as having fumbled when the ball moved slightly as he went to the ground, and because there were only 8 seconds left on the clock, the mandatory 10-second runoff of the clock ended the game. The Lions lost, 30-26.
Also on September 24th, which was a busy day for Riveron, Sterling Shepard of the Giants had a touchdown pass reversed as the ball came slightly loose when he hit the ground. Earlier in the game, a catch by TE Zach Ertz of the Eagles was declared good despite him losing control of the ball when he hit the ground. The Giants lost, 27-24.
Zach Miller (Bears) dislocated his knee during what looked like an incredible touchdown catch that he somehow or other held onto as he collapsed onto the field. Riveron reversed it. Blandino disagreed. The Bears lost 20-12.
And finally, in a 31-24 loss to the Panthers, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen caught a touchdown. Quite conclusively, or so one would think. If one weren’t Senior VP of Officiating, at any rate.
Here’s how the Daily Norseman described the problem with the Thielen catch, which looked like a catch to pretty much everyone in the NFL-watching world:
This is the NFL. In order for it to be called a catch, you must catch it, get no fewer than four limbs and five internal organs in bounds, seal the ball in Lucite, get your cleats notarized, and recite the alphabet backwards.
So my question is, is the New York office unduly influencing the course of games, regardless of whether you believe there is a particular bias involved?
3. In looking at the above information, would you find it interesting to look very, very closely at Al Riveron’s financial picture?(Told you I was mad…)
Now to return to our regularly scheduled programming, and to Hombre de Acero:
4. The interesting thing about Jesse James’ non-touchdown is that there is no shortage of Steelers/Pittsburgh commentators who are saying, “Yeah it sucks but the ruling was correct” and no shortage of neutral observers saying, “This is INANE. THAT IS A TOUCHDOWN.” Based on your understanding of the rule, regardless of whether you agree with it or it, do you think it was correct?
5. Were the Steelers right to go for it at the end instead of kicking and playing in overtime?
And a bonus question for the holidays:
6. After the game, Jim Wexell’s instant reaction was, “I’m not sure the Steelers can overcome this.” However yesterday, he wrote a long column arguing that the game showed that the Patriots can be beaten. Which side do you come down on?