The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season came to a heartbreaking end on Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs’ second stringers blew a 10 point 4th quarter lead, Ryan Succop missed a game winning field goal, and the San Diego Chargers held off the Chiefs in overtime for the victory. They were ‘THIS’ close to quite literally sneaking into the Wild Card Playoffs as the 6th seed. They had a 7% chance of making the playoffs at the start of today. The improbable continued to unfold after the Steelers defeated the Browns and the Dolphins and Ravens fell in the early games. But, what has become a consistent theme across the league, the officials blew some major calls that ultimately screwed the Steelers and shut the door on the playoffs.
Of course the Steelers are to blame for failing to make the postseason for the second consecutive season. Had they won ANY of the games they lost this season to finish 9-7 instead of 8-8, they would have been pouring champagne instead of pouring over the KC/SD game. I’ve always lacked sympathy for any team that has to rely on any other team(s) in the league for their own continued success. The fact that the Steelers had to rely on three teams to make the playoffs makes it difficult to feel sympathy but easy to feel vitriol towards my own. However, that does not mean the events that took place in San Diego get a free pass.
Bill Leavy and his officiating crew can quite frankly go take a long dunk in the Monongahela. Strike that. They can go take a long dunk in my toilet a day after I’ve had some spicy Thai food. In what has been way too frequent this season and across the league, the officials blew not one, but two major calls at the end of the game. Those two calls ultimately impacted the outcome of the game.
The first came at the end of the 4th quarter. The Chiefs were lined up to kick the game winning field goal, and Ryan Succop pushed his kick a bit too far to the right and missed. That wasn’t the only miss during that play. The officials missed the fact that the Chargers were illegally lined up on the play. The Chargers had six players to one side of the center and that is a new rule which is a ‘no-no.’ The officials missed it, Succop shanked his kick, and the Chargers kneel to put the game into OT. Were the officials to catch the illegal formation, the Succop’s kick would not have counted, and he would have received a ‘second try’ five yards closer. This one kills me the most because it’s a formation call and did not involve any ‘weirdness.’
The second bad call took place in OT when the Chargers decided to perform a fake punt on 4th and 2 early in the OT period. Eric Weddle got a direct snap and ran right into the pile of players at the line of scrimmage. That pile pushed forward to the sticks and continue to push forward. Weddle lost the football at the end of the play, KC recovered and took it all the way back to the end zone in what would have been a game ending defensive touchdown. Instead, the officials ruled Weddle down from forward progress, and also Weddle’s helmet came off, which complicated the matter further. The officials did not review the play because it was deemed not reviewable. There was no explanation, no stoppage in play. The officials said Weddle was down, and the ball was spotted for the next snap.
Now I may not always agree with officiating guru Mike Pereira, but Mikey sure took it upon himself to tear into the officiating from this game. Periera felt that the fake punt play was indeed a fumble and should have ended the game with the returned TD. He also agreed that the missed field goal by Succop involved an illegal formation by the Chargers. Fake punt play aside, the illegal formation was blatant and should have been flagged. As of Sunday Night Football, it was reported that the league already acknowledged that a flag should have been thrown and will issue a formal statement on Monday. As always, too little too late. The Steelers will still be on their couches come next Saturday.
Too bad Kansas City had nothing vested in this game or perhaps there would be a bigger stink about both of those calls.
The NFL has a serious problem on their hands. The officiating has become atrocious, and it is affecting the integrity of the game. As Brett Keisel pointed out via Twitter on Sunday night, when will the officiating become accountable for the calls they make. When a player performs poorly, they are either benched, fined, or cut. When an officiating team makes a bad call, the results still stand (not reversed or righted) and they continue to officiate the following week. The challenge system is also very problematic and needs some major revamping. I’m tired of hearing officials tell coaches and spectators that the particular play is not reviewable. Look, if you are going to have a challenge system that reviews the validity and accuracy of a play/call, then they ALL should be subject to review.
The Steelers ultimately have no one to blame but themselves. But, the poor officiating will leave a bitter taste with Steeler Nation for the next 8 months….