The Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans have every reason to believe that they were wronged on Sunday in a loss to the New England Patriots.
Steelers tight end Jesse James appeared to catch a pass late in the game from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before extending the ball across the goal line for a go-ahead touchdown. However, after review it was ruled that James lost control of the ball at the goal line, and the pass was ruled incomplete.
The Patriots went on to win the game and stake their claim to the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron explained why the play was ruled an incomplete pass.
“James is going to the ground as he reaches the goal line, and that’s the key here. He was going to the ground,” Riveron said, via The MMQB’s Albert Breer. “By rule, to complete the process of the catch he must survive the ground. By that we mean he must maintain control of the football. As we see here he does put the ball over the goal line extended. Once he gets there he loses control of the football, and then the football hits the ground.”
Here’s the full explanation on the call in the Pats/Steelers game from NFL SVP of officiating Al Riveron. pic.twitter.com/EXSQM6ssvo
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 18, 2017
FOX Sports’ Mike Pereira, former NFL vice president of officiating, echoed similar sentiments as Riveron. He tweeted that when going to the ground instantly, a pass catcher must secure possession of the ball through the process of the catch.
Look, here is the rule. If you’re going to the ground you have to hold onto the ball when the ball hits the ground…Going to the ground trumps lunging/reaching to try and get extra yards or score a TD. You do that at your own risk. It’s incomplete…just ask Dez
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 18, 2017
Pereira’s reference to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant comes from the 2014 season. Bryant made a catch and reached through the goal line for a touchdown during a playoff game, but it was ruled that the ground caused the ball to move in his arm.
The rule makes sense, although reaching for the goal line would seem to indicate that the person attempting to catch the pass has control of the football.