Let’s get to it:
JOSHUA MORGAN FROM ROME, NY: As we can all agree, the officiating in the Steelers-Chargers game was just horrible. A different question on the same subject: when Artie Burns blocked the field goal at the end and got flagged for being offside, in your opinion, do you believe that was an illegal snap?
ANSWER: There were three successive offside penalties called on the Steelers at the end of the game, each one on an attempted field goal by Michael Badgley. According to the official play-by-play, the first of those three fouls was called on Joe Haden and the second and third were called on Artie Burns. To recap the action, Badgley was wide right on the 39-yard attempt; the 34-yard attempt was blocked by Burns, and Badgley then made the 29-yard attempt to give the Chargers a 33-30 victory.
Shortly after the game ended, Browns linebacker Joe Schobert tweeted this about Chargers long snapper Mike Windt: “Chargers long snapper is notorious for twitching and moving the ball before he snaps. Pointed it out to refs during our game and was told ‘he’s been doing it his whole career’ it’s not gonna get called.”
Then later, Warren Sharp of SharpFootballStats.com broke down the offside calls with a tweet that had video attached: “Wondered why there was no analysis of the 3 offside on the game winning FG last night from the broadcast. Here you go. The simulated snap from the Chargers long-snapper drew the Steelers offside.”
Add those to the missed false start on the 46-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin and the missed block in the back on the 73-yard punt return for a touchdown by Desmond King to referee Bill Vinovich’s sterling resume.
STEVE GIFFORD FROM VIRGINIA BEACH, VA: When the officiating has a significant impact on the game, what recourse does the team have and who holds the officials accountable?
ANSWER: The team has absolutely no recourse, and whether the crew or individuals within the crew are held accountable and what the punishment is if that happens rarely leaks to the public unless the NFL wants to create the illusion that it’s tough on incompetence.
JIM ANDERSON FROM TOLEDO, OH: Do you think the league owners will expand coach challenges to include penalties and non-called penalties?
ANSWER: I hope not, because while replay is supposed to be the tool that gets things right, it often doesn’t. With the added benefit on the first down line that’s visible on the network broadcast of NFL games, replay showed clearly that JuJu Smith Schuster was beyond the line to gain after making that catch in the fourth quarter, but when the ball was spotted short and Mike Tomlin challenged the spot, Bill Vinovich said into his microphone that replay upheld the call on the field. My personal opinion is that increasing the number of replay challenges available to coaches, or keeping the number of challenges per game the same but expanding the scope of what can be challenged, doesn’t address the core issue. To me, the core issue is that there’s a glaring need for better officials, not more layers of technology mixed with bureaucracy designed to correct bad officials’ mistakes.
KELLY JOHNSON FROM TOOELE, UT: It is a sad state of affairs in the NFL when a coach can't speak honestly about officiating for fear of being fined. Is there an avenue that we, as the fans of pro football, can pursue to let the league know that Al Riveron and his striped minions are terrible at their jobs?
ANSWER: Please do not take this the wrong way, because I’m attempting to make this point as emotionless as possible: the fans’ opinion, your opinion as a fan, doesn’t matter. You may get some lip service about it and maybe some patronization comes your way, but if fans believe that they could have any real impact on something such as the quality of officiating, they are delusional.
DAVID THORNE FROM BALTIMORE, MD: Do you think the Steelers will make the playoffs?
ANSWER: Yes. I think the Steelers will win the AFC North Division. I wouldn’t bet a paycheck on it or anything, but that’s the way I’m leaning at this moment.
MIKE FEDERICO FROM MEMPHIS, TN: I agree with your assessment that the officiating in the loss to the Chargers stunk. It was awful. Among the worst I have seen. That being said, the players still have to make plays. Champions overcome adversity, not blame it. If you were in charge of the 2019 off season (draft and free agency), what are your positions of focus?
ANSWER: I want to clear up one thing right here and right now. Nobody, and I mean nobody in the Steelers locker room or on the coaching staff used the officiating as an excuse for the loss to the Chargers. Didn’t happen, and I just want to be perfectly clear about that so no one has the wrong impression. With that clarified, I’m not ready for offseason questions yet. In 2005, the Steelers looked like toast with four games left in the regular season, and we know how that ended up. Not predicting a repeat by any means, but I believe in everything in its proper time, and it’s not time yet to discuss/speculate about offseason roster tinkering.
BOB SMITHE FROM BETHLEHEM, PA: James Conner suffered a lower leg contusion in the second half of the Chargers game. What is a contusion?
ANSWER: A bruise.