Having reviewed several controversial plays from Sunday's big win, I'll give my opinion on me all. There are 11 to be exact, and if I missed any that you'd like to bring to my attention I'd appreciate it.
#1. 3RD & G Steelers at the Cardinals 1, Q1 10:11 left:
In the opening drive of the game Big Ben bootleg's to his right on 3rd and goal from the 1. My gripe about this drive is I wanted the PS to take 3 shots up the gut with Russel or Parker...oh well, guess not. But Offensive play-calling is a discussion for another day. Ben goes through his reads and no one is open, but had he pulled up another half second he would have noticed Heath getting open. Instead Ben chooses to take it in himself, in his own rumbling bumbling style of rushing he does a pretty good job of bulling over Darnell Dockett. Then PS C Hartwig comes into play to aid in Ben's effort for a TD. Initially the refs rewarded Pittsburgh with a TD, but in a seemingly split second Cardinals Coach Whisenhunt used his red flag to challenge the play. Upon further review Head Referee McCauley reversed the call, explaining that when Ben's knee makes contact with the ground the ball had yet to cross the plain of the Goal Line.
Verdicthttp://www.nfl.com/videos?categoryId=highlights&campaign=0009<#2. 1st and G Cardinals at Steelers 1, Q2 0:18 left:
On this play Zona called a pic slant to Boldin and PS James Harrison showed blitz only to come off of it and pick Warner's pass off for a 100 yard INT TD. Not bad, eh. There were several controversial occurrences in this play that must be separated and broken down.
1-I'm a bit confused, because I recall on the actual ruling by the official that number 74 of the Cardinals committed a personal foul by illegally using hands to the facemask of his opponent, but on NFL.Com's game center play-by-play it is marked that number 61 committed the foul. Regardless, this factor's in, sorta, because had Harrison's return not been counted as a TD the Steelers would have been granted one last play in the first half at the Goal Line.
Verdict----None really, just explaining something that I know some people that I know were concerned over...you know them, that "what if" people.
2-I've heard uproar over an alleged holding non-call against Deshea Townsend while blocking Kurt Warner while Harrison was returning the INT. Deshea engages the block on Kurt at the Steelers 29 yd line, Kurt has the opportunity to shed the block and make a play between the Steelers 34 and 40 yd line but does not get off Deshea's block. At about the Steelers 38 yd line Kurt and Harrison come into contact as Kurt does begin to somewhat shed Deshea's block by sliding to the left. Though, between Deshea's right hand blocking Kurt's right shoulder and Harrison stiff arming Kurt in the chest, Kurt begins a counter-clockwise spin. As Harrison separates himself from contact with Kurt at the Steelers 40 yd line, Kurt continues this spin, remaining squarely shouldered with Harrison, but it is too late to make a play. At about the Steelers 41 yd line Ike Taylor is about to parallely block Kurt's left shoulder when the Cardinals Bertrand Berry actually tackles Ike from behind at the Steelers 42 yd line. At this point Townsend is longer engaged in blocking Kurt as he watches Berry's unofficial tackle propel Ike and Berry into the back of Kurts left leg, sending Kurt down to the turf.
Verdict---Correct non-call by the refs.
3-At the Cardinals 31 yd line the Cardinals Tim Hightower ibis angling to tackle Harrison, but slows down as Harrison makes a cut to the opposite direction. Harrison's cut opposite of Hightower's momentum forces Hightower to slow down, and also gives the PS Lamar Woodley to catch up to Hightower to make a block. When Hightower slows down his shoulders are perpendicular to Woodley's momentum. The controversy here is that some believe Woodley committed a block in the back, which would have nullified the TD.
Verdict---It appears to me that Woodley made a legal lock here. With Hightower's shoulders perpendicular to Woodley's Hightower saw and braced for Woodley's ensuing block. This alone nearly discredits those crying for a block in the back. Furthermore, Woodley's initial contact with Hightower is with his right hand hitting the outside of Hightower's right shoulder pad. Because Hightower slightly braces for the impact of Woodley's block Woodley's left hand does make contact with Hightower's back and only his back. But because the block was initiated legally this is not a block in the back. The refs got it right
4-A non-call controversy surfaced with Larry Fitzgerald illegally attempted to tackle James Harrison. The Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald ran out of the field of play near the 50 yd line by first pushing a slower Deshea Townsend, in the back, out of the way He then left the playing field and ran on the sidelines to avoid tripping over a fallen Deshea Townsend at about the Cardinals 45 yd line. At no point before attempting to tackle James Harrison, (the attempted tackle began at the Cards 4 yd line), did Fitzgerald attempt to establish himself back onto the field of play, (i.e. his feet had not been touched back in bounds before attempting to tackle Harrison.)
Verdict---The same official who called a Touchdown on the play for the Steelers also missed this illegal action taken by Fitzgerald. Ref got it wrong. Why does this matter? Say the illegal hands to the face is never called on the Cards and the play is ruled as not being touchdown. Then we've got problem, because there'd be 3 missed calls by the refs, and no rightful extra down for the Steelers to attempt a Field Goal or TD. other scenarios could be explored, but the message is the same.
5-Finally, we are at the end of this play, where Fitzgerald is illegally attempting to tackle Harrison along with another Cardinal, Steve Breaston. Breaston doesn't really factor into this equation, other than he ironically helps to propel Harrison into the end zone while Fitzgerald is attempting what looks to be a poorly executed wrestling move, called a bulldog. A ref called it touchdown, believing the ball crossed the Goal Line before Harrison knees or elbow's hit the ground. Some may swear to their grave that Harrison's knees were down as Fitz and Breaston tackled him
Verdict---Replays confirmed that neither of Harrison's elbow's, nor did either of his knees make contact with the field before the ball got over the Goal Line. Harrison's left knee was just barely in mid-air, above Fitzgerald's body, his right knee landed on top of Fitzgerald's body, (not the surface of the field), and sprang upward immediately during the attempted tackle. His elbows were also in mid-air throughout the attempted tackle. The first elbow or knee of Harrison's to touch the field was Harrison's left elbow after he was about a yard into the end-zone. The refs got this right.
#3 3rd and 6 Cardinals at the Steelers 49, Q3 11:02 left
On this play Kurt Warner's pocket collapsed and he was sacked by James Farrior who forced a fumble, or so we thought. When James Farrior recovered the fumble Arizona's Head Coach Whisenhunt challenged fumble, stating that Kurt's arm was moving forward in a throwing motion when the ball came out, making it an incomplete pass. Head Ref McCauley reversed the call to an incompleted pass.
Verdict---The refs got this one right as Kurt maintained control of the ball while executing a throwing motion with his throwing arm, despite while being hit by Farrior. The problem here is that, and I wish the NFL would address this in their owner's meeting this year, this play should have ruled as an incomplete pass with an intentional grounding penalty on Kurt Warner. He was outside of the pocket and was really just weakly throwing this ball into an area where there were no skilled Cardinals players. If the NFL allows officials to overturn fumbles due to the tuck rule, they should be consequently allowed to flag QB's who they believe to have committed intentional grounding to avoid taking loss of yards on a sack. So, hey, they got the right call under review, but missed a deliberate penalty due to not being permitted to call such a penalty under review.
#4, (the 1st of 3 Arizona Personal Fouls in a Steelers Drive), 2nd & 13 Steelers at the Steelers 15, Q3 10:11 left<#5 (the 2nd of 3 Arizonas Personal Fouls on a Steelers drive), 1st & 10 Steelers at midfield, Q3 7:41 left
1-At the end of this play, after Ben threw what would be an incomplete pass, Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby hit Roethlisberger in the back for what Head Referee McCauley deemed as roughing the passer.
Verdict--- This was a bad call by Head Ref McCauley. Dansby is a step an away from Ben when the ball is released, which should be enough of a lack of space and time between a quarterback and his pursuer for there to be a hit/shove allowed on a QB. It should not have been called.
2-This play provides even more controversy over Bens passing attempt. As Ben scrambled to the left before the pass and, knowing he had nowhere to go with ball while pressure burned down his neck, he threw the ball away to towards the left sideline. There was no call for intentional grounding and some thought there should be.
Verdict---The refs got this right. Ben was just outside the left side of the tackle box when he attempted the pass, which dismisses any concern over intentional grounding.
#6 (last Arizona Personal Foul in a Steelers drive) 4th & G Steelers at the Cardinals 9, Q3 3:36 left#7 4th and 20 Cardinals at the Steelers 36, Q3 3:34 leftVerdict#8 3rd and 11 Steelers at the Steelers half yard line, Q4 3:04 left[/B]
The Steelers Ben Roethlisberger roped a pass to Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes for a 19 yard first down. Wait though; the play was negated by a referee who called holding on the Steelers. Center Justin Hartwig was bull-rushed by the Cardinals Karlos Dansby. Overpowered, Hartwig went down and took Dansby down with him, by grabbing and pulling on Dansby jersey as he fell.
Verdict#9 2nd & G Steelers at the Cardinals 6 yard line, Q4 0:42 left
1-The Steelers have driven 82 yards to the Cardinals 6 and have already squandered a scoring opportunity on the previous play. On this play the Steelers appear to have capitalized when Ben lifts the ball over three Cardinals defenders and into the hands of Santonio Holmes in the back right corner of the end zone. Cardinal Aaron Francisco quickly hits Holmes out of bounds, but not before Holmes possesses the ball completely. The only question is whether or not Holmes tapped his feet in bounds. The original call is a touchdown and after a booth review remains so.
Verdict---Watching the replays Santonio clearly has possession and at a very distinct point you can see his right foot(the foot in question)tap the ground as his ankle shifts as if it were landing on something. Just afterwards does Francisco push Santonio out of bounds. They got it right
2-The celebration after the TD should have been flagged for 15. Unfortunately, the ref keeping a clear eye on things turns just before Santonio began his celebration. Just an unfortunate bad non-call for the Cardinals to weather.
#10 1st and 10 Cardinals from the Steelers 45 yard line, Q4 0:15 left
Dropping back for nearly 6/7 seconds Cardinals QB Kurt Warner is sacked from behind and Kurt pushes the ball forward. The refs determine the play is a sack and fumble with the Steelers gaining possession of the football. Oddly, with so much on the line, the review booth upstairs didn't call down to challenge the fumble. This sent shockwaves through many rooting for the Cards or, at the very least, against the Steelers. For them it was the nail in the coffin that the refs and NFL favored the Steelers.