After Further Review: Jets-Steelers Officiating

This season, we're going to have a post after each game that breaks down some of the controversial decisions from the officiating crew in the game.

Penalty Count

Steelers 4-34 (leading to two Jets first downs)
Jets 3-30 (leading to two Steelers first downs)

Plays where the call was obvious, uncontroversial or not visible on broadcast footage

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick pass interference on Robby Anderson. No doubt about this call as Fitzpatrick collided with Anderson coming across the middle. As the announcers said, with better awareness, Fitzpatrick would have had a good chance to make a play on the ball.
  • Offside and too many men on the field as the Jets rushed up to the line of scrimmage to run a quick play on 4th-and-short. Isaiah Buggs was running off but didn't make it off the field.
  • Arthur Maulet horse collar tackle. The call here was correct although Maulet was somewhat unlucky because he initially had a grip on the outside of the receiver's shoulder pad and only ended up pulling him down by the horse collar because his hand slid across as they were going to ground. He could have let go at that point though and the receiver was lucky not to be seriously hurt.
  • David DeCastro false start. Set off early as he was pulling to the left. May have helped anyway as there was a bad snap, although it did bounce right back to the quarterback.
  • Jordan Dangerfield holding to negate a 30-yard punt return. This was unclear from the broadcast footage but Dangerfield seemed to believe it was a bad call.
  • Tarell Basham holding on a kick-off return. A bit of a ticky-tack call as he retained a grip on arm of the player getting off his block for a split-second before letting go.

Penalties warranting further discussion or explanation

  • Maulet illegal contact. This play set up the Steelers' only touchdown. There was some controversy because it was called illegal contact rather than pass interference. First of all, the contact appeared to be made when the ball was already in the air. The Jets defensive backs seemed to be protesting that the ball was uncatchable which would only apply for interference, though. Was the contact adequate to constitute interference anyway, or just acceptable hand-fighting? Probably the latter. But if the contact was before the pass then the call could arguably be correct. Ultimately it seemed like they didn't want to commit to either interference or a no-call so hedged their bets even though the call may not have been correct.
  • Benny Snell offside on a punt to give the Jets a first down. The Jets may have got lucky here because it looked like the Steelers may have got back onside before the Jets moved. Thomas Hennessy did perhaps flinch though, so that would make the call correct if the flinch happened after someone had jumped across. This was very close.

Notable no-calls

In a game where penalties were only called on six offensive plays, there was obviously a few plays where some other calls could have been made.

In particular, Devin Bush grabbed Jamison Crowder's jersey as he disrupted a pass over the middle and Jordan Jenkins was held on the edge, causing him to miss a tackle. However, on another throw to Crowder where the defensive back never looked back for the ball, the no-call was correct as no contact was made. Had Crowder come back to the ball more aggressively, he could have earned a flag there though.

There were two other controversial calls that went in the Jets' favor, the first of which saw the Steelers lose yardage on a fumbled snap when the game clock seemed to have expired so that should only have been a delay of game penalty. However, as we've seen all year, the officials do give a lot of leeway when the clock expires and the ball is snapped within a few seconds.

The other was on Joe Haden's attempted interception, where Vyncint Smith was able to force him to lose control. The "expert" on CBS suggested that Joe Haden having this ball in one hand and then having his elbow hit before it came loose constitutes control and down by contact. If that's the rule, so be it, but if you can't use the ground to help you make a catch but can be credited with a catch when the ground knocks the ball loose, that makes no sense whatsoever.