As he detailed problems his coaching staff had with the headset communications on Thursday night, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stopped short of coming right out and accusing the Patriots of cheating. But the Steelers’ website makes clear that the team believes the Patriots were in control of the audio problems the Steelers’ coaches were having.
An article on the Steelers’ website says that the audio communications problems started and stopped repeatedly — always stopping when a league official came down to the sideline to deal with the matter, then starting up again when the league official left the sideline area.
“This is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time,” the article said. “From the start of the game through the opening 14 minutes of the first quarter, the Steelers’ coaches’ headsets were receiving the Patriots Radio Network broadcast of the game. The broadcast was so loud that the Steelers coaches were unable to communicate, and the NFL rule is that if one team’s headsets are not working the other team is supposed to be forced to take their headsets off. It’s what the NFL calls the Equity Rule. Strangely enough, whenever an NFL representative proceeded to the New England sideline to shut down their headsets, the Steelers headsets cleared. Then as the representative walked away from the New England sideline, the Steelers’ headsets again started to receive the Patriots game broadcast.”
It’s impossible to read that as anything other than the Steelers accusing the Patriots of cheating. The allegation is published under the byline of Bob Labriola and is not presented as an official statement from the Steelers, but you can bet that a Steelers website writer wouldn’t write that if he thought the higher-ups in the organization disagreed with it.
The NFL says the headsets are provided by the league and the problems on Thursday night were a technical issue that got fixed early in the game. But that won’t stop those who are inclined to believe the Patriots are cheaters from thinking that the “technical issue” was caused by someone who works for the Patriots. That’s clearly what the Steelers think.