I'm befuddled. I'm baffled. I'm confused. I'm out of adjectives to describe my current state of mind after somebody showed me this article on ESPN about how the Steelers were apparently given a phantom first down on Sunday against the New York Jets.
Didn't they lose the game? Correct. So, who gives a damn about whether or not they got a free first down?
Here's what part of the article says.
"On first-and-10 from the Jets 35 early in the second quarter, Mendenhall gained 9 yards to the 26-yard line. After momentary confusion as the chain crew began moving the sticks, referee Peter Morelli's crew put the ball down at the 25 and signaled a first down."
So what? This happens in almost every game in the NFL. In fact, the late Walter Payton once said that he gained an extra 300 yards or so in his career by simply by extending the ball a few feet forward after he was tackled. Ball spotting is a very inexact science.
What this does remind me of is the game against the New England Patriots in 2005 when a phantom minute somehow found its way onto the clock early in the fourth quarter. In the long run it ended up costing the Steelers the game.
Pittsburgh scored a touchdown with about 1:20 remaining in regulation, which gave pretty boy Tom Brady more than enough time to waltz down the field and set up Adam Viniatieri for the game-winning field goal to end the game at 20-17. If that minute didn't mysteriously appear, then the game goes to overtime.
How is it that nobody is making a big deal out of the phantom no-call when Dwight Lowery pulled the jersey of Emanuel Sanders on what could have been the game-winning touchdown on the last drive?
What about that phantom flag when Ryan Clark hit Braylon Edwards? You can call it launching and say that's against the rules, but guess what. The launching rule is completely stupid. It's the defender's job to dislodge the ball in that situation. Unfortunately, the NFL front office folk don't possess the ability to realize that the game is too fast and that there isn't enough time for the defender to actually grab the ball when it's in the receiver's hands.
Don't forget about the phantom flag that made its way onto the grass on the opening kickoff that Brad Smith took all the way home. Morelli's crew simply picked it up. I'm sure the flurries just blew it out of the referee's pocket.
Let's turn our attention to the phantom helmet-to-helmet contact that was called on James Harrison in Buffalo? Better yet, the phantom helmet-to-helmet call on Clark against Oakland where his helmet never made contact with anything, but his shoulder did.
Most importantly, the phantom flags when illegal hits happen to Ben Roethlisberger. When Haloti Ngata's hand somehow found its way into Roethlisberger's facemask and eradicated his nose? What about the phantom roughing the passer call in the same game? No flags for either of those plays.
Fast forward to the Cincinnati game. A phantom, but yet obvious face mask while Roethlisberger is in the pocket, but no flag.
I'd bet the farm that if it was a Steeler defender doing any of those, there definitely would be yellow all over the field.
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