Super bowl officials…

I'd like an unbiased opinion on this one. And I'm only going to make one post on this, so bear with me.

I think the Steelers played a pretty good game - and managed to do some nice things - converting both long runs and a nice trick play for touchdowns. The Seahawks did some good things, but did a poor job managing the clock at the end of both halves.

But the officiating was, well, just weird.

Darrell Jackson catches the ball in the endzone, the ref doesn't signal anything, the Steeler DB protests, and the ref throws a flag. Clearly no interference. Seahawks settle for a field goal.

Roethlisberger's touchdown was pretty darn close, and I couldn't really tell if he scored, but it looked like he didn't. I think this is largely irrelevant as my guess is that they would have gone for it on 4th and scored, but the Seahawks have stopped a few of those this year, so it wouldn't have been as clear.

The killer, however, was the holding call on the Hasselbeck throw to Jeremy Stevens. It was pretty clearly not holding, and this was the big momentum change of the game.

Then, on the ensuing interception, Hasselbeck gets called for a low block, which is just wrong.

So, what do you think?

Comments (40)

  1. Maurits says:

    Hey, that’s football…

  2. lferrent says:

    I think that the Seahawks lost and the Steelers won. If Stevens would learn how to catch the ball and Hasselfunk learned how wide the field is, you wouldn’t even have remembered the bad calls. GET OVER IT, THE SEAHAWKS SUCK!!!!!!!

  3. Adam says:

    Nah, the reason the flag was late on that endzone catch was because the ref fumbled the flag. I watched that in the replay: the ref wasn’t responding to the Steeler CB’s complaint, he just missed grabbing the flag the first time.

  4. Mike says:

    All valid points, but the Seahawks should have done enough to not put themselves in a situation to not allow these calls to have any bearing on the outcome.

    It’s sports and referees are human.

    The Seahawks weren’t really at the top of their game ON THE DAY and that is all that counts.

  5. Alex Lowe says:

    I didn’t particularly care who won the game so I think my opinion is fairly unbiased. While the officiating may have been "weird", it did not seem slanted to me.

    The way I saw the Darrell Jackson call was that the ref through a flag right after DJ caught the ball. It did not appear to be a sufficient enough delay for me to believe the ref even saw the Steeler DB protesting. Pass interference is often the toughest call to make IMHO.

    The call on the field made sense as it was close and any ref could have called it either way in real time. The call in the booth is correct too because the "indisputable evidence" needed to waive off the touchdown didn’t exist. You "couldn’t really tell if he score" and assuming the booth folks felt the same way then it is a touchdown as called on the field – good call.

    From the replay I saw, I don’t think it was "clearly not holding". It certainly looked like it could be considered holding to me. Of course, virtually every play includes a bit of holding in my opinion. I think officials just try to pick out the excessive use of holding where it changes the play. From what I saw, the Seahawk lineman was beat and he held (more specifically, went WWF and put him in a headlock).

  6. Ryan Yates says:

    With the angle from behind the ref of the pass interference call it looked to me that the ref tried to throw the flag right after the contact, but his hand missed the utility belt.  He immediately reached back again and at that point the stealer was protesting, so it did appear as though he was influenced, but I don’t think he was.

    Unfortunately I think a lot of the talk has been about how the Stealers "stole" the game, but unless they paid off the refs, they were as much out of control of their calls as the Seahawks.  Perhaps in a game with more elegant rules (ultimate) we would all feel better about who won.

    (my own personal bias was that Hasselback was played badly)

  7. lferrent says:

    Both teams played bad so i’d says it was a even game.

  8. theCoach says:

    Mostly agreed with above. The ref pretty clearly was trying to throw a flag, missed, then tried again making it appear as if it was a response to the protest. I thought it was a good call but that offensive pass interference is not called in general as much as it should be.

    I though it looked pretty clear that he did cross the plane in normal speed. At superslow mo there was not enough evidence, and I thought it looked like it probably did just barely inch over the plane.

    Not sure about the holding call – I was in a different room for that one.

  9. That was pass interference, but to a degree the refs usually let slip.  However, part of getting away with it is not doing so directly in front of the umpire.  Receivers on both sides probably pulled the same stunt a dozen times out in the flat where no ref could see them.  One of the Seattle radio guys was on a local morning show out here, and he said if that was pass interference, than every one of Michael Irvin’s catches was PI, which is pretty much what Marino had to say about that call as well.

    There’s no good, clear angle on the TD.  In the ultra slo-mo dissection, the ball appears to cross the plane for a microsecond, and then the Seattle defender hits Ben in the arm, pushing the ball back out.  But tough to tell.  The Steelers have converted every 4th and inches they tried this year (maybe all but 1, but they picked up a safety on the next play if I’m remembering correctly).

    That was technically holding, but again, not the kind that usually gets called.  The blocker’s right arm was hooked under the pass rusher’s left arm.

    The low block was wrong, but the 15 yards wouldn’t have made a difference anyway; not calling that wouldn’t have changed the interception, just the ball placement after the return.  I can see how that mistake was made, though, when you see the play from behind Hasselbeck.  From the side, with several players running aside one another, and all going down at the same time, it probably looked different.

    In the end, great teams have to overcome even bad calls.  Look at the Steelers-Colts game a few weeks ago.  Every single major call went against the Steelers, including overturning a call on the field for an interception where the Colts picked up 8 points a play or two later.  The NFL even apologized for the officiating, and didn’t fine Joey Porter for his comments about the officials "cheating".  But it was the Steelers, not the Colts, playing yesterday.  Hasselbeck got sacked by a 350+ pound nosetackle, and later on a corner blitz no one picked up, each of which killed a Seattle drive.

  10. Ed says:

    If you look at the replay, the ref was reaching for the flag while the play was happening.  This Snoozer Bowl was one of the most boring in recent years.

  11. I think that the snow in Stevens was fantastic, we had great sunny weather and absolutely no line for the chairs. Definitely the best day in the year for skiing. I just wish there were several superbowls a year… So who won?

  12. Kyle Bennett says:

    I’m about as unbiased as you can get.  I didn’t even know which teams were in the game until two days ago, and I don’t recognize a single one of the names you mention, even after seeing part of the game.  I stopped watching football out of sheer boredom around the time the replay appeal was first getting started, I think.  What was that, ten, twenty years ago?  I tuned in for the commercials just before the Steeler’s first TD, and tuned out late to mid third quarter when even the commercials weren’t up to par.

    That TD was a blown call.

    In the replay, the ball doesn’t get to the front edge of the goal line before it disappears from view.  It was just about to, but it didn’t, by less than an inch most likely.  After it is no longer visible, you can still tell where it is by eliminating the places where it can’t be, and the last instant that it was visible was also the furthest progress made.   When he hit the ground, the ball was again visible, and is now several inches behind the line.  In particular, watch the defender’s hand.  He goes for the ball, not the man, and he clearly stops the ball’s progress while the man is still moving forward.  You can see the position of the ball carrier’s hand move "down" his body after the ball is no longer visible.

    The only justification I can see for not reversing the call on replay is the "innocent until proven guilty" idea, that since the ball could not be seen, it was not proper to reverse a call, even if the replay would not support an original call of TD.

  13. ericgu says:


    I agree with you about the snow. Skied seventh, double diamond, and under southern cross.

  14. sj says:

    The only thing worse than losing like this is lamenting.  It was neither a loss, nor a defeat, as it was really no contest.  It was a charitable donation from the League to Pitt, for whatever reason.

  15. bart elia says:

    The NFL rules state that the referee should make a call when there is an OBVIOUS item that the referee clearly sees.

    -The pass interference – happens all the time and did not give the wide receiver an obvious advantage.

    -The quarterback sneak touchdown – was not an obvious touchdown so the side judge should never have called the touchdown on the field. NOTE: The replay was handled correctly – no obvious evidence to overturn the bad call on the field.

    -The holdings that came from no where – three of them – two long gains and one return. The holdings were not obvious and did not give one player an advantage over another player.

    -The blacking penalty on Hasselback that he was taged with for tackling the guy with the ball.

    In all cases the calls were marginal but the biggest problem was a bunch of middle aged lawyers wanting to be famous and get TV time during the super bowl. The game is not about them and the rule book states don’t call it unless they are sure and it is obvious. If it was obvious to the refs, they need new refs. The NFL has been better than the NBA in officiating but that is no longer the case. The Indy / Pitt game a few weeks ago was just as bad and Pitt fans were screaming bloody murder.

    Just call it the NWWFL

  16. Brad Corbin says:

    You’re not the only one who thinks so:

    Kevin Hench from

  17. Ed Kaim says:

    I’ve seen a lot of bad calls go both for and against the Seahawks this season. While it seemed like the bad calls were heavily slanted against the Seahawks, it was the low-block call on Hasselbeck that really upset me the most. I’m sure there’s no conspiracy at play, that call was like a practical joke that just hasn’t yet hit the punchline. I mean *come on*.

  18. Sean Chase says:

    Up front, I’m a Steelers fan. OK, so the Rothlisberger TD looked short to me on game day. I’ve seen the replay several time since and there are people calling it TD, and some calling it no TD. It’s close, but I see why they didn’t overturn the call. In fact, if the ref would have not signalled TD, that wouldn’t have been overturned either, so the call could have gone either way IMO. I think the pass interference call was legit because it was a push off, but I’ve seen worse penalties. If you remember when Dalls played Pittsburgh in the 96 superbowl, Michael Irvin was called for the same kind of play. Looked about the same as that call. The Jackson call looked OK to me as well, not a TD. Overall, I didn’t see anything as clear cut as the admitted mistake of Polamalu’s interception of a Peyton Manning pass being called incomplete.

  19. Tim Marman says:

    I’m a Steelers fan, but I’ll try to be as objective as I can.

    I don’t think the offensive pass interference was a bad call. As others mentioned he was trying to throw the flag from the start, not after the protesting. While it didn’t seem like much, he definitely created separation which enabled him to score… and right in front of the ump… so that’s why it was called.

    As for the TD, I don’t think there was indisputable evidence either way. Remember, the standard of review is indisputable evidence of error. It’s not looking at it fresh. I think given the replay whatever was called on the field was going to stand. It just so happens it was ruled a TD.

    And when it comes to holding, well, let m etell you – as a former offensive and defensve lineman, I can tell you it definitely happens on every play. If your hands are outside, it will definitely be called. Sometimes, if there’s a clear shot the ref gets of jerseys being grabbed etc, it will be called too. I didn’t get a chance to watch that particular play, but rest assured there is no play where holding COULDN’T be called. And in a case like that, the flag is thrown before you know what happens on the play. It wasn’t like they threw it later just to nullify the TD… and again, if that DE isn’t held and gets a little more pressure, well, maybe they don’t get the TD anyways.

    Also, keep in mind there were a few questionable calls against the Steeers too. There were at least two fumbles that were ruled incomplete passes (on one, Jeramy Stevens took two steps and most definitely made a football move before the ball was jarred loose). So, yes, the officiating wasn’t great, but I really don’t think there was any conspiracy or that it directly cost the Seahawks the game.

    (Stevens’ dropped passes may have!)

    In fact, there have been games which were much wose just in the last two rounds of the playoffs. There were two calls against the Pats at the end of the first half of their loss to Denver – one of which was defensive PI when it SHOULD have been offensive – which really changed the momentum of the game. (And as a Jets / Steelers fan,you know I HATE the Pats, so it’s pretty objective if I’m defending THEM!).

    Troy Palamalu’s overturned INT was a terrible call too. It was clearly an INT + Fumble and was even ruled as much on the field. The fact that they overturned it was a disgrace, and really, it had the potential to almost directly affect the outcome of the game. There were a comple of other questionable calls (or non-calls, like one PI against Randle El) as well.

    It’s just part of the game…

  20. 66666 says:

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  21. JD says:

    Some of this is repeated, but I wanted to address each point. I have the game recorded in HD and have watched each of these plays over and over on my 50" plasma.

    DJ’s called back touchdown:

    First, as many have noted, you can see the ref during the replays reaching for the flag as soon as it happens. It looks like he accidentally grabs the whistle first. The DB is protesting, and that happens to be when the ref finally got the flag out.

    As to the penalty, this is definitely pass interference. One might argue that it’s one that isn’t often called, but it most certainly is. DJ pushed off, displaced both of the Steelers defender’s feet by half a yard or more, gave the Steelers defender backward momentum, created opposite momentum for himself, and ended up catching the ball about as far away from the defender as it could have been thrown. No way he catches that ball or has the separation he ended up with if he didn’t push off. Clear advantage created by an illegal play. Plus, it happened right in front of the official.

    Ben’s touchdown:

    I wish I could create a screenshot from Tivo. I can pause the play at a point where the part of the ball you can’t see has to be beyond the line. This one is extremely close. I can’t fault an ump or ref for calling this a touchdown in real time, and the replays don’t provide any 100% proof either way. so there’s no way it’s overturned. I thought Holmgren was pretty lame claiming his guys upstairs said it wasn’t a touchdown instead of addressing the Seahawks complete breakdown and lack of clock management at the end of the first down. The Seattle upstairs couldn’t possibly have had any better angles than we or the officials had, to claim that it was clearly not a touchdown is pretty dishonest.

    As others have mentioned, stopping a 4th and goal from an inch away is awfully hard to do.

    The holding:

    In an after game interview with the lineman called on the play, the lineman revealed that he thought the Steeler defender jumped offside, so he thought it was going to be a free play. This indicates that maybe he wasn’t overly worried about doing whatever it took to stop the defender. In a slow motion replay of the play, the defender got an amazing jump, but was definitely offsides. He ahd the lineman beat the whole time. At one point, the lineman’s hand was up in and around the defender’s face mask and illegal hands to the face could have easily been called as well. He had a hold of the defender’s shoulder pad for a good stretch, and the defender ended up going down to the ground, which is something the officials look for to call holding. If the guy doesn’t grab, it’s at the very least a sack, and possibly even a fumble based on where Hassleback was holding the ball at the time. When a defender gets that good of a jump and has clearly beaten the lineman, he’s going to get called if he holds. People say that you could call holding on every play, and that may be true, but they call it when the holding gave the blocker a clear advantage.

    The low block:

    Pittsburgh was the recipient of this call in I think the first game against Indianapolis. Despite making the tackle after an interception, because the offensive player went through a blocker, he was flagged. If you watch the replay, the guy leading the blocking for the interceptor has a hand on Hassleback as Hassleback goes through to make the tackle. The call is for going low, not for taking the blocker out, and since he had contact with the blocker, regardless of who initiating the contact, he went low. As others have pointed out, this wouldn’t have changed the interception. Pittsburgh got a first down in that series before the reverse-receiver-pass for a touchdown, so the 15 yards probably didn’t make a huge difference.

    Finally, Pittsburgh was the recipient of some questionable calls, calls that didn’t receive the same scrutiny because they were winning and won. Miller was called on a offensive pass interference call when he was the tight end on the opposite side of the field from the side that a screen pass was thrown that resulted in Pittsburgh losing 15-20 yards (10 yard penalty minus the yards gained). Big Ben was sacked on the next play. Instead of throwing an interception like Hassleback did in the same scenario (backed up because of a penalty), Big Ben scrambled, watched the line of scrimmage, and threw a first down on 3rd and 28. There were several times that guys got held during blitzes that weren’t called.

  22. JD says:


    The Seattle break down and lack of clock mgt happened at the end of the first half, not the first ‘down’.

    The defender in the holding play was definitely ‘onsides’, not ‘offsides’.

  23. billrob458 says:

    Stevens should learn to catch the ball, and the "close" flags wouldn’t have mattered.

  24. Danh Dang says:

    As a Patriots fan who have been too often been the beneficiary of these close calls, I’ve seen the other side of the coin.  But watching that game, I definitley felt there most if not all of the close calls always went for te Steelers.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think being in Detroit just 5 hours away from Pittsburg probably did affect the officiating.  It’s the equivalent of a home field advantage.  I also think the NFL should start paying their refs.

  25. Conspiracy says:

    I’m not a fan of either team and I thought that something was fishy with the officiating in not only this game but throughout the playoffs. Seattle was ripped off on the calls that you mentioned. Even the Pittsburg QB admitted on the Letterman show that he didn’t think he scored.

    Raise your hand if you think it’s all determined by the Networks.

  26. jorge says:




  27. PAPER CHAMPS says:

    To write that Stevens dropped passes lost the game is to pick the straw man to blame.  The PI on Jackson was definitely pushing off, however, the defender pushed Jackson previously… To make the PI call is really steeling the spotlight from the players.  Add that 7 to the final score and the Seahawks are driving for a victory on the final play.  The holding call on Locklear kept Seattle off the one yard line.  Clearly not a holding call, say what you want about what constitutes holding, but ask anyone who watches more football than just the super bowl and they roll their eyes after seeing this call.  Another spotlight steeler.  Experts talk about The Stealers making "the big plays" in the game, but Seattle had about twice as many big plays stolen from them.  

    Not a great game for Seattle, but they definitely outplayed The Stealers or should I say  Pitt Paper champs…  Can’t wait to play them next season and prove it…

    P.S.  Hines Ward did have a great game…  Congrats to him and to Jerome Bettis for an amazing career.

  28. NFL ref to be says:

    Hey, just found the blog and like it… although I’m a C# developer, I’m also a potential future NFL ref (working my way throught he college ranks now) hence not using my real name…

    The officiating was a bit suspect in that game… I’ve had many times I’ve reached for a flag and had to reach twice, but DPI requires extending the arm to gain separation… sure the contact ended with the arm separated, but it also started that way and the separation wasn’t from the contact, absolutely not DPI… the back judge (the same position I work) probably missed the initial contact and only saw the end of it, oops!  at least his crew-mates talked him out of the illegal hit on a defenseless receiver on the ensuing drive

    as for the low block call on Hasselbeck, I don’t remember the specific call, but remember that the blocking rules are very liberal in the NFL until a change of posession, then during the return the restrictions are pretty tight (this includes a kickoff return, where the kicking team is considered the offense since they put the ball in play)

    as for the real reason I’m here… love the regex stuff!  Thanks!

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