I’ve learned over the 18 hours or so since doing the Sunday Night Football postgame thing with Bob Costas that Steelers fans do not appreciate even a hint of a suggestion that the rules as currently constituted produced a potentially unfair outcome in their favorite team’s favor against the Dolphins on Sunday.
So allow me to clarify, without in turn pissing off the Dolphins fans who are taking solace in the notion that their team got jobbed.
The officials on the field got the call wrong. There’s no debate about that. A touchdown should not have been signaled, and a scrum should have determined possession of the ball. (As Bob pointed out last night, if it had been ruled a fumble in real time, it would have been a touchback for the Dolphins or a touchdown for the Steelers.)
That said, the replay system worked as currently designed. Referee Gene Steratore correctly determined that indisputable visual evidence proved that the ball had been fumbled. And he correctly determined that indisputable visual evidence could not determine whether the Dolphins had recovered the ball in the end zone.
Whether the Dolphins came out of the pile with the ball doesn’t matter. Under the current rules, the Dolphins would have gained possession only if it was clear that a Dolphins player had recovered the ball in the end zone.
This doesn’t change the fact that the rule should change, as explained last night and in the Week Seven Monday 10-pack. And our view that the rule should change doesn’t mean we think the Steelers should have lost on Sunday. If the rules were different, Steelers players may have fought a lot harder to emerge from the pile with the ball.
But if believing that Steratore’s decision was the product of a rooting interest and not the correct application of the rules makes Dolphins fans feel better, that’s fine with us.