Headset malfunctions are not a new thing in the NFL and there have been several examples of problems with the communications systems over the last decade. Many of those examples also come with accusations of cheating and plenty of those have included finger-pointing at the New England Patriots.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made his feelings about the Patriots clear after a loss on Thursday night, telling reporters that headsets going out is "always the case" at Gillette Stadium.
He's far from the only one. While headset issues aren't exclusive to Gillette Stadium, the Patriots seem to get in the headlines for visiting team equipment malfunctions more than any other and by a significant margin.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2006 playoffs
Following the 2005 season, the Jaguars traveled to New England and lost, 28-3. "Radio chatter from Patriots security staff" interfered with the Jaguars' communication and the problems seemed to occur during "crucial moments" in the game.
Five years later, Jack Del Rio prepared the Jaguars for a 2011 game against the Patriots by cutting off the headsets in practice because that "tends to happen in New England," although he didn't say if there was another example after the playoffs in January 2006.
Detroit Lions 2006
The Lions weren't a good team during a 3-13 season in 2006, but gave the Patriots a strong test in a 28-21 loss. A Detroit player told Sports Illustrated a year later that the team could've done better if communication didn't continue to cut out in big moments:
"They were getting fouled up, lining up wrong, we were moving the ball. Then boom, the headset from the sidelines to the coaches' booth goes out.
"Next possession we were moving the ball again and the same thing happened."
The Cincinnati Bengals also lost to the Patriots during the 2006 season, but that game was in Cincinnati. So Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was likely referencing a 2004 loss in New England when he told Martz that it "happened to me in Foxboro, too."
In 2007, Washington got destroyed by the Patriots, 52-7. Head coach Joe Gibbs said after the game that his headset went out, but didn't accuse New England of anything nefarious, saying, "It's something that's intermittent and it's going on all around the NFL."
New York Jets 2007
A Week 1 game against the Jets drew plenty of attention when it launched the SpyGate scandal that eventually cost the Patriots a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft as well as some fines. But it wasn't the only thing that caught the NFL's attention and the league "also was reviewing a possible violation into the number of radio frequencies" used by the Patriots.
According to the NFL, the Patriots "did not have a satisfactory explanation" for their irregular communications set up.
Arizona Cardinals 2008
In a radio interview with PFT Live, former Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby said the headset communication in his helmet wouldn't work in a 2008 loss to the Patriots. He told Mike Florio that there were "no problems with my headset until I got to Foxboro" and that he had to turn to hand signals instead.
When asked if it was deliberate or an accident, Dansby didn't mince his words: "They gonna do what they gotta do to win. It's just how they operate."
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Again, headset issues aren't exclusive to Gillette Stadium, but the complaints of problems in New England outnumber any other stadium. Even the scoreboard used by the Patriots has been the cause for some controversy in the past.
It's entirely possible that the issues with the Steelers headsets on Thursday night were just an accidental malfunction, but Tomlin certainly isn't convinced and the team will reportedly file a complaint with the NFL about the problem.