There are many ways to describe the emotion that can be attributed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room in the wake of their loss last night stemming from the league’s decision to overturn a 10-yard touchdown reception by tight end Jesse James. One of those ways is decidedly not ‘mixed’.
Virtually to a man, the Steelers are outraged. About the catch rule in theory, about the ruling on the specific play in practice. The bottom line is that they don’t agree. Even Ryan Shazier, who was in the stadium last night in what is hopefully a good sign regarding his recovery, weighed in.
Perhaps nobody was as direct as the player who helped set up that play, rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who’s 69-yard catch-and-run on the first play of the drive put them on the 10-yard line. “It’s sucks, honestly”, he told Jeremy Fowler. “That was a bullshit-ass call by the refs”.
I think that can probably do well to sum up what most of the fan base is thinking, as well as many others around the league. Every time a situation like this comes up, the call is renewed for the catch rule to be changed.
“I feel like he had ball control, he was in”, Smith-Schuster said. “In a game like that, when you go down and you finish the game like that, and then — boom — momentum, and the next thing you know [the referee] said he didn’t have control of the ball. Nobody touched him”.
The man at the center of all this, James himself, said that he is “sick about it”, and added that he’ll “be thinking about this the rest of the night”. Frankly, I can’t blame him, regardless of what one feels about the call itself. Either you are outraged about the ruling, or about the rule, or just upset that you couldn’t retain control of the ball ‘surviving the ground’.
“I had my knee down, turned up the field. Whether they consider that a football move or not is up to them to decide. I guess I don’t know a lot of things about football. I thought it was a touchdown for sure”, he said.
And therein lies the problem. If even the players are repeatedly saying that they don’t understand the rule, then the obvious solution should be to simplify the rule. If a player is actively lunging for the goal line with possession of the football, then consider it a ‘football move’ that establishes a completed catch.
Even some of the New England Patriots players, however, acknowledged that it was all very close. Devin McCourty conceded that he is biased, but Eric Rowe said “it could have went either way”.
David DeCastro knew that “it’d be tough to overturn” the call on the field of a touchdown, but added, “I understand it’s tough for [the officials]. I’m not criticizing them. I’m just saying it’s a tough way to lose”.
As the millions of members of Steeler Nation groan in agreement.