Last weekend the Pittsburgh Steelers travelled to East Rutherford, New Jersey and beat the New York Giants on the road in a style that I don’t think anyone expected. It was a game that was played in large part because the city of New York and many along the eastern seaboard had been devastated by Superstorm Sandy, and this game was going to be an escape for those who had been effected. A noble cause for certain.
But during the course of the game there were some problems. The first problem was the Steelers were better. Much better in fact. They were controlling the game in all 3 phases and looked well on their way to a big win.
And then it all started to unravel. After the Steelers marched down the field to go up 7-0, the Giants got the football. They were also able to move the ball down the field, but it appeared as if their drive would stall out on the 2 when cornerback Ike Taylor breaks up a 3rd and goal throw intended for wide receiver Victor Cruz.
But instead of that the officials threw a flag on safety Ryan Clark for a late hit and they Giants had new life. The play was physical, the play was textbook, and the play was legal. On the next play Giants running back Andre Brown attempted to lunge over the goal line for a score, and was awarded a touchdown by the officials. Upon multiple reviews there is no evidence to support the touchdown, yet it was confirmed. This assured the Giants were able to tie it up. But it doesn’t end there.
In the 2nd quarter of a tied game the Steelers were driving down the field. On a drop back Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger attempted to throw the football, and it was knocked from his hand. I have rewound and watched this play a dozen times, and nothing I have seen tells me that the play should have been anything but an incomplete pass.
But instead the refs allow Giants linebacker Michael Boley to pick the football up and return it for a touchdown. A footnote to that is on the return Steelers tight end Heath Miller had an angle on Boley and was about to make the tackle when he was clipped in the back by a Giants defender. This will be more important in a moment.
So the Steelers close out the half down 4 after a late field goal. Fast forward to the third where the Giants got the ball and dove down the field to get a 50 yard field goal to extend the lead again to 7. On the ensuing kickoff Steelers reserve tight end Leonard Pope is called for a block in the back forcing the Steelers to start at their own 6. Comparing Pope’s penalty to the non-call on the hit Miller took on the bogus touchdown, it’s laughable how one can be called and not the other.
Jumping to the end of the quarter following another Giants field goal, Steelers running back Chris Rainey was crushed by a Giants defender, on a hit that was much more severe than the one Clark was flagged for, yet no flag. Rainey has bruised rib cartilage and may miss this weekend’s game.
So, we have these events. In this huge game, a game most felt like the Giants deserved a win for the morale of the city. And as I Tweeted live during the game stated I am not one to complain about officiating but these calls were horrific. But were they a conspiracy? Was the league trying to get the Giants a win?
I spent a lot of time scouring the internet, social media and the like to see what the pulse of Steelers and Giants fans were of the officiating. The only beef I really heard from Giants fans were that they said the Steelers tackles got away with a lot of holds. My response to that is yes, many holds in NFL games go uncalled. The same could be said for what happened to Steelers linebackers James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley. But the real issue here were the calls against the Steelers that definitely gave the impression the fix was in.
And many Steeler fans felt and still feel that way today. I mean a lot of them. But was there a conspiracy at work? Of course not. This was simply a case of inept officiating that just happened to swing almost exclusively toward one team. I don’t believe that the league contacted this group of morons in striped shirts and told them to try and help the Giants win. It was unfortunate that they seemed to fail on so many levels during this game, and almost exclusively in favor of the Giants, but the good news is that even in that when the referees were unable to do their job, the Steelers were still able to do there.
So Steelers fans, just relax. There is no huge conspiracy at work. Just really bad refs. Come find me on Twitter @nfldraftboard for all things Steelers and NFL draft related.