Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin was pretty vocal following the team’s season opening tie to the Cleveland Browns on what he felt was a blown call by the officials after they failed to award them a fumble recovery on a punt on which a Browns return player had the ball touch him.
A Steelers player fell on the ball after it bounced off the Brown’s helmet, and the team believed it was going to be awarded possession of the ball. The officials didn’t see it that way, and there was no further recourse, so Tomlin let his opinion be known in fairly strong terms that ended up getting himself fined.
The officiating has been a big part of a few more games down the stretch this year, but he has taken a more measured tone since. While he did say during his press conference yesterday that he did not believe the second penalty on Joe Haden for defensive pass interference was actually a penalty—and surely didn’t think the first one was either—he refused to dwell on it.
“Obviously we didn’t get the necessary stop when we needed it late in the ball game. We had a couple of stop opportunities in the game, fourth-down plays where seemingly we won the circumstance but we didn’t because of penalty”, he said. “So we’ve got to accept responsibility for that and work to play a cleaner brand of ball in those moments”.
Haden committed two penalties on fourth down that ultimately led to touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints soon after, one early in the game and one late, both big—huge—swings of momentum. In both cases, one might be able to argue that a flag shouldn’t have been thrown, or at least didn’t have to be.
But in both cases, Haden also made more contact, perhaps a lot more contact, than he had to. It was especially unnecessary on the first pass interference penalty on a ball that frankly should have been deemed uncatchable in the first place.
While Haden himself lamented the fact that he was penalized and his issues with the way the rules increasingly make defensive backs’ jobs difficult, he did say that he would go back and work on making those plays cleaner next time.
He also said he would hit up Tomlin today to discuss with him how better to defend those plays in a manner that would not get him penalized. Whether the rules or the calls on the field are fair or not, this is the only sane position to take when you are the one on the field or the sideline that will ultimately be held responsible for what happens the next time you’re in the same situation.