At a time when plenty of Steelers fans are griping about the decision to wipe what would have been a game-clinching fumble return off the scoreboard in overtime of the contest between the Chiefs-Chargers, all Steelers fans should be complaining about the failure of the officials to miss a blatant foul as the Chiefs tried to win in regulation.
As kicker Ryan Succop lined up on the right hash mark to try a 41-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, seven Chargers positioned themselves on the line of scrimmage to the left of the long snapper. But a new provision added this year by the NFL to Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 states that “[n]o more than six Team B players may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap” when Team A lines up in a conventional field goal formation.
Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL believes a flag should have been thrown. The league office could acknowledge the error publicly as soon as Monday.
The seven Chargers lined up to the left of the Chiefs snapper in plain view of at least two members of referee Bill Leavy’s crew. If the officials had called a penalty for illegal formation, the Chiefs would have had another chance to make what would have been the game-winning kick.
Succop’s shot at immediate redemption would have come from 36 yards out, with four seconds on the clock. If good, the Chargers most likely would have had no time left for a Stanford-band attempt to win the game.
While it’s impossible to know whether Succop would have made his Mulligan, the point is that he should have had a second chance, due to the San Diego penalty that somehow wasn’t called. If Succop had converted, the Steelers would be celebrating one of the most unlikely playoff berths in franchise history, courtesy of Week 17 losses by the Ravens, Dolphins, and Chargers.
Instead, Steelers fans will spend the offseason wondering whether their team could have replicated what the Steelers accomplished in 2005, when Pittsburgh parlayed the No. 6 seed into the long-coveted One for the Thumb.