Flag Day usually falls on June 14, but we witnessed a late celebration of the holiday by Tony Corrente and his officiating crew today at Heinz Field.
You would think as a Steeler fan I'd be thrilled as could be after a 35-3 shellacking of the Oakland Raiders. Obviously there are a lot of positives to discuss after a completely dominating performance of the overhyped, overrated Oakland Raiders.
But no, I'm still seething—hours after the win—because of the ridiculous officiating.
Personal foul on Ryan Clark for a shoulder hit. Personal foul on James Harrison for a perfectly legal takedown. Plenty of major plays by the Steeler offense negated by holding.
The Steelers were flagged for a franchise record 163 yards, including six personal foul penalties.
Congratulations, Roger Goodell—you're now punishing legal, physical play, too. I'll be anxious to see how the league handles Richard Seymour after he punched Ben Roethlisberger in the face well over five seconds after the play was over.
On to the grades:
Big Ben threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, no turnovers from the signal-caller. He also added a rushing score, which I factored into the running game score. No complaints from me on this one. Good job, Ben!
Running Backs: B-
Rashard Mendenhall finished with only 59 yards, but he added a tough, physical touchdown which really set the tone. Roethlisberger had three huge runs for 55 yards. Isaac Redman came in for some garbage time running and added 27 yards. As a whole, the Steelers ran for 162 yards. A fairly solid overall effort, even if the featured back didn't put up eye-popping yardage.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
Roethlisberger really spread the ball around to all of his receivers today, and they delivered.
Mike Wallace continued his huge 2010 campaign, adding three catches for 116 yards and a score. Pittsburgh went with more youth at the position for this game, activating both of their rookies, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Sanders had a big touchdown grab and has really shown flashes of brilliance so far this season. Both of the rookies have been dynamic on punt and kickoff returns.
Offensive Line: B-
The O-line improved leaps and bounds over last week's debacle, limiting the Raiders to only two sacks. There were some holds called that negated big plays on offense, but given how Tony Corrente and his zebra crew were calling the game, I'm not going to fault the line for that. Roethlisberger had plenty of time to make good decisions today, so I'll give them a solid grade.
Defensive Front Seven: A
Darren McFadden came into the game leading the NFL with 108 yards per game. He was completely shut down by the Steelers defense, managing a meager 14 yards on the day. Amazing what happens when you don't get to play an AFC West softie.
The front seven ended up with five of the team's six sacks, an interception by James Harrison and three forced fumbles.
One word sums it up: domination.
One week after getting scorched by the New England Patriots, the secondary really stepped up and prevented the Raiders from making anything happen. They ended up with two interceptions, plus a negated pick six by Ike Taylor due to a BS personal foul call. Even in the later parts of the game when everyone knew the Raiders had to pass, the Raiders were unable to move the ball.
Job well done today, secondary.
Special Teams: A-
Shaun Suisham was perfect on his field-goal attempts, mainly because he didn't have to attempt one. I'm not going to complain about that. Dan Sepulveda landed four of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line. Antonio Brown was dynamic on his punt returns, hopefully proving that Antwaan Randle El is no longer needed to fair catch the ball back there.
I will ding Suisham a bit because most of his kickoffs were being fielded at the 10-yard line; however, the coverage teams were very good at snuffing out returns by the Raiders.
Bruce Arians may have called his best game of the season, though let's please temper the enthusiasm and realize this was against an overmatched Raider squad. The defense was simply amazing. This is how they looked in the first four games of the season.
Dear Tony Corrente, please learn the rules and teach your crew how to properly call an NFL game. I know, you probably got a memo from Roger Goodell telling you to target James Harrison and the rest of the Steelers for daring to play physical football, and kudos to you for following through on it. The only problem is that you didn't even bother trying to hide this fact.
This was the most lopsided, blatantly miscalled game I've seen in a long time. Even Dan Fouts was calling you out on it.
In the words of the 64,000-plus fans at Heinz Field: "Refs you suck."