The Pittsburgh Steelers stole a victory in South Florida over the Miami Dolphins today after a controversial call at the goal-line gave the Steelers a chance to hit the go-ahead field goal in their 23-22 victory over the Dolphins.
On third-and-goal at the two yard line, Ben Roethlisberger rushed the ball, and although the original call was that he had cleared the goal-line with possession for the go-ahead touchdown, it was obvious that was not the case.
Dolphins' FS Chris Clemons laid a hit on Roethlisberger and forced the ball from his hands and into the end-zone about half a yard shy of the goal-line. After pondering whether or not to gamble his final timeout on the challenge, Miami head coach Tony Sparano decided to throw the challenge flag.
After the review, referee Gene Steratore said that replays showed that Roethlisberger fumbled prior to crossing the goal-line. However, he nor his crew had enough evidence as to who recovered the ball, therefore they awarded possession to the Steelers for a chance at the field goal by Jeff Reed that won them the game.
This bothers me for several reasons:
1.) Usually, if there is a loose ball on the field, the referees will check to see who came up with the ball after the pile-up, regardless of how the play is ruled. They do that in case something happens like it did today, where a team decides to make a challenge on a play that involves a loose ball.
Well guess which teams' player came up with the ball? The Miami Dolphins.
2.) While the first person to touch a loose ball often isn't the guy that comes out from under a pile with it, it's extremely hard for me to figure out how the first three players to touch the ball are on the same team, as is the player that comes up with the ball, yet there still isn't enough evidence to make a call as to which team had possession.
3.) What exactly does the league consider "evidence"? If video replays show a Miami player coming out from the pile holding the ball, and the same replays show multiple Dolphins touch the ball first, how can you not give them the ball?
4.) Would that same call have been made if the Pittsburgh Steelers weren't the Pittsburgh Steelers? Believe it or not, the league tends to do what they deem is best for business when they have the chance.
When their is a questionable call in a game involving one of the leagues most popular teams, which team do you think the league would like to get the benefit of that call?
I'm not saying the league calls for specific teams in all or even most situations. But when it is a call like the one that decided the Dolphins-Steelers game, it's hard not to wonder if Steratore would have given a team like the Cleveland Browns or the Buffalo Bills that same call in that exact same situation. I honestly don't know for sure if he would have.
It makes it especially difficult to believe considering the amount of time he spent listening to "the guys upstairs" on the headsets after he was done watching the replay. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want, but I'm just not convinced most teams would have gotten that call and a chance for the go-ahead field goal.
Steelers fans might argue that Miami had plenty of time to drive the ball down field and win the game, but it should have never even come down to that. If the correct call had been made, the Dolphins would have taken over possession at their 20-yard line with a little over two minutes remaining.
While Miami would have still needed to get at least one first down to finish off the game, as Pittsburgh still had all three of their timeouts remaining at the time, they would have had a much better chance at stopping the Steelers after a punt (if they couldn't pick the first down) than from inside their own one-yard line.
The fumble, Roethelisbergers' third of the game, should have been much more costly than it turned out to be for the Steelers. I think everyone involved with their franchise understands they were extremely lucky to walk off of the field today with a victory.
While it was the blown call that allowed Pittsburgh to hit the go-ahead field goal, Miami did have plenty of other opportunities to finish off the Steelers.
The Dolphins forced two fumbles within the first four minutes of the game and recovered both in Pittsburgh territory. However, they couldn't capitalize on either turnover with a touchdown, and settled for two of Dan Carpenters' career-high five field goals instead.
If any of those five field goals had been touchdowns, the Steelers would have needed more than a field goal to take the lead when Steratore graciously let them keep possession after Roethlisbergers' third fumble of the game. Considering how poorly the Steelers did on the ground against Miami, 58 yards rushing on 27 attempts, it's no guarantee they would have been able to get the ball into the end-zone on fourth-and-goal.
The loss drops the Dolphins to 3-3 on the season, while the Steelers should be thanking Steratore for their 5-1 record.
Oddly enough, all three of the Dolphins' victories have come on the road, whereas all three of their losses have come at home. With their next game coming Oct. 31 against the Cincinnati Bengals on the road, Miami can only hope that trend holds up for one more week.