Thirty-one years to the month after the Immaculate Reception, the Steelers nearly crafted an NFL version of the “band is on the field!” play, if only receiver Antonio Brown had managed to stay on the field himself.
And if Brown hadn’t stepped slightly out of bounds only 13 yards from paydirt, the outcome would have become nearly as controversial as the Bradshaw-to-Tatum-to-Franco-possibly-by-way-of-Fuqua touchdown in the postseason.
One of the various pitches on the play included a lateral from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that initially appeared to be an illegal forward pass. On Tuesday, NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said on NFL Network that the ruling on the field of a lateral would have survived replay review, given the lack of indisputable visual evidence to the contrary.
This assumes, of course, that the referee John Parry wouldn’t have pulled a Triplette when reviewing the play.
The far more impressive bit of officiating came from field judge Scott Edwards, who remained in proper position throughout the chaos of the final play, saw Brown’s left foot land slightly out of bounds, and blew the play dead.
Making Edwards’ decision even more gutsy was the absence of the safety net of replay to overturn an erroneous call. While the failure to blow the whistle could have been corrected after the fact, if Edwards were wrong he would have been solely responsible for swiping a season-saving win from the Steelers.
In a year featuring so many high-profile officiating mistakes, Edwards deserves credit for getting a big call in a big spot right, and for having the nerve to be true to what he saw.