Apparently the Pittsburgh Steelers very briefly used a defective football during the second half of last night’s highly meaningless preseason debut against the Philadelphia Eagles. The news was just a blip on the radar for the NFL, who quickly dismissed the story as much ado about nothing.
Not so for Pro Football Talk, who used the opportunity to fan the flames of conspiracy theories about the league, and perhaps about its supposed favoritism toward the Steelers. Mike Florio’s website has already produced two articles this morning making reference to the league’s handling of issues pertaining to the Steelers and the evident contrasts to how they’ve handled others.
In one piece penned by Florio himself, he seemed to lament the fact that “the league has no interest in further spelunking as to the inner workings of a football”, making reference to the ‘Deflategate’ fiasco with the New England Patriots that caused the Ideal Gas Law to rise to prominence in the public knowledge.
Both this article and another written by one of his colleagues for his venue also recalled a 2016 incident during a game against the New York Giants in which, after recording turnovers, the Steelers’ opponents argued that the footballs that the offense was using were not inflated to league standards.
At the time, the league quickly addressed the issue and absolved the Steelers of any wrongdoing. The Giants did not even formally issue a complaint about the footballs, as had been the case with the Patriots when they were ultimately penalized for using deflated footballs.
Florio was chagrined over this reality at the time, and seems to have picked back up on his frustration today. This seems to be a not infrequent pattern for him, and it often tends to involve situations in which he feels the Steelers are in some way favored.
Ultimately, though, I suppose his point is that the original Deflategate should never have happened, or at least in the manner in which it did. “Don’t expect the league to ever rev up the investigative engine no matter whether the footballs used by any of the other 31 teams seem like marshmallows, beach balls, or old balloons”, he wrote.
Yet he did add that “if the Patriots are ever again suspected of taking the top off of a football or two, the Enforcer could be goaded out of retirement”, indicating a belief that the Patriots have been unfairly treated by the league.
At the end of the day, every aspect of this story, and everybody’s take on it, is little more than hot air—or cold air, or whatever it is that shrinks the footballs. It’s unfathomable that the Steelers would even consider intentionally doctoring a football for a preseason game, in which the purpose is to test players’ abilities to handle real-game circumstances. Which includes a standard football.