Before Steelers coach Mike Tomlin declared that the team was done talking about the headset problems at Gillette Stadium, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger elaborated on the problems the Steelers had on Thursday night against the Patriots.
“In a lot of games, the offensive coordinator to quarterback headset, there’ll be — whether it’s one play, it’s static, something — it’ll go out,” Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning. “It doesn’t matter if it’s at home, on the road, it just never fails. There’s almost always some kind of communication [problem]. But it’s real brief. It never lasts very long. I think the difference this time — and this is, like I said, there was no communication issues really between Coach [Todd] Haley and myself — but what I was told and what Bruce [Gradkowski] told me when he listened is that when we had the ball on offense, our coach-to-coach communication, so the guys up in the box to the guys on the sideline, were not only hearing themselves but they were hearing the radio broadcast of the game. And from what I was told from Coach Haley it was only when we had the ball. When the Patriots had the ball there was no radio broadcast.”
This meshes, possibly, with the claim made by the Steelers’ official website on Friday that the problems would stop when league officials would arrive to inspect the situation and start when they would exit — if, of course, the league officials were arriving when the Steelers didn’t have the ball and were leaving when the Steelers did have the ball. Either way, it’s at best a strange coincidence that the NFL’s statements on the matter never addressed.
Roethsliberger also talked more generally about the perception that the Patriots have inside information about an opponent’s game plan, which for Roethlisberger dates back to the AFC title game that ended his first NFL season.
“Whether we were outcoached or outplayed or they had some kind of a leg up, I always felt that they knew some of our offensive plays,” Roethlisberger said. “For whatever reason. Maybe it was better scouting or whatever. But I had always felt that. But I’m not one to sit and say, ‘Hey,’ you know, to pout about it or talk about it. I just felt that they were — they beat us on that day and maybe I was a rookie and didn’t know any better but I always felt that the knew some of the plays we were calling.”
It may have been better scouting or better coaching. The Steelers, for example, had known that the Patriots like to simultaneously shift multiple players on the defensive line to induce a false start. But the Steelers weren’t adequately prepared to deal with it when it happened. Or they wouldn’t have moved when the Patriots shifted.
So the Steelers had spotted the line-shift technique. And they’d failed to do anything about it.
But that’s the problem with having a track record of breaking the rules, as the Patriots do from the Spygate controversy. Other instances of superior knowledge that could be explained away by factors like scouting or coaching or updated injury reports morph into cheating when the same minds that failed to properly scout, coach, and/or read the updated injury reports are trying to figure out why and how they were hoodwinked.