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Worst Call of the Week: Did a missed punt recovery cost the Steelers a win?

Mike Tomlin thinks this bad call contributed to the Steelers’ tie with the Browns. The evidence appears to back him up.

The Steelers and Browns surprisingly ended their first matchup of the season in a tie. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin thinks a bad call by the officials in the fourth quarter was a big factor in the final score, 21-21.

With eight minutes remaining in regulation, the Steelers were up 21-7 and punted the ball away. Before the ball reached the Browns’ returner, it bounced off the helmet of Cleveland running back Nick Chubb and was recovered by Steelers safety Sean Davis. The officials said it was the Browns’ ball, but the Steelers thought it was a fumble recovery. By NFL rule, once the ball is touched by a player (including their helmet) on the return team, it’s a live ball.

Despite a challenge from Tomlin, and ample video evidence that there was contact with a Browns player’s helmet, the NFL VP of officiating did not overturn the ruling.

The Steelers thought the bad call and loss of a timeout due to a failed challenge affected the tide of the game. Instead of running down the clock or scoring again, the Steelers believed the call gave the Browns a fresh opportunity to put more points on the board.

And that’s exactly what happened. A rushing touchdown from Carlos Hyde and a touchdown catch from Josh Gordon ultimately carried the game into overtime and the game ended in a tie.

Controversy over the call didn’t stop when the game ended. Former NFL ref Terry McAulay, now the rules analyst for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, criticized the league’s central replay system with a Wednesday morning tweet:

The NFL has seemed very eager to point out *on-field* officiating errors over the past few years under the guise of “transparency”. Here is an unintended consequence. Note: since NY became involved in replay, they have never pointed out a replay mistake.

Even if the NFL had acknowledged a mistake, it won’t change the outcome of the 21-21 tie.


What do you think? Were the officials right in their decision?

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