The Raiders came into Pittsburgh to play the Steelers possessing some of the old Silver and Black swagger as a result of being the top dog in the “suspect” AFC West but alas they were sent back to Oakland staggering and bloodied. This game, like almost every other this season, had a playoff-like significance, at least for the Steelers. If Pittsburgh had lost they would have dropped a game behind their AFC North rival the Baltimore Ravens; actually more like 1 ½ games in the rear because the Ravens currently hold the all important, head to head tie-breaker.
Instead Pittsburgh beat a team they were supposed to beat (as Pitt Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt would say). Even though ex-New England Patriots and now Raiders’ defensive end Richard Seymour went up beside Ben Roethlisberger’s “grill” and “ejected himself from the game,” according to referee Tony Corrente, Big Ben, his sore jaw and the Steelers’ kept right on rolling. Raiders’ defensive lineman Tommy Kelly said, “I heard that Big Ben said something, I guess Big Rich didn’t like it.”
Seymour attempted to explain his actions. “I’m not sure why he ran up on me,” he said. Seymour also expressed remorse to his teammates for being ejected. “I just turned around and it was a natural reaction,” he said. Big Ben has to understand in the “hood” you do not run up and jump into any man’s face talking the talk unless you are ready, willing and able to walk the walk.
Head coach Mike Tomlin played off a Black and Gold record of 163 yards in penalties but I suspect that the response of Monsieur Tomlin would not have been as ho-hum if the Steelers had lost the game as a result of some of those “imagined” infractions. All-Pro linebacker James Harrison now realizes that the officials brought extra microscopes after his “questionable” and remorseless post game remarks after attempting to send two Cleveland Browns’ receivers to the bone orchard a few weeks ago at Heinz Field with hits that sent them past John Fedko’s “skylights” into the Twilight Zone. “Their defensive guys were hitting our offensive guys and there were no penalties,” Harrison said. “I believe if it happened the other way, there would have been a lot more penalties called and maybe they would have kicked five or six of us out of game.” Instead of finger pointing, Harrison had this to say: “We didn’t worry about the calls. When you’re getting a lot of penalties against you, it brings you together.” On the plus side, Dick Lebeau finally let the dogs loose. Jason Campbell like a few other NFL quarterbacks along the way failed his entrance exam into LeBeau’s University of “Cruel.”
The officiating in the NFL has become controlling and script-like, almost as if Vince McMahon the “commissioner” of the WWF, WWE or whatever they call themselves nowadays is the new personal adviser to commissioner Roger Goodell. The “refereeing” was suited more for a Friday Night “Smackdown” cage match than an NFL contest. I expected The Undertaker, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and The Rock to all go and suit up and come running onto the field through one hundred fog machines, fireworks going off.
The men wearing the stripes called the game like the Steelers players were wearing prison stripes. Perhaps “Warden” Goodell issued a mandate to seek out the flesh-eaters on the Steelers and neutralize them at all costs. They can be held, tripped, bitten and scratched but the PH balance of the Pittsburgh offense and defense overcame the “official” twelfth man of the Raiders.
Recently after the fines on Harrison had been officially levied by the league, Steelers All-Pro safety Troy Polomalu questioned the balance of power in the NFL. I can’t prove it but this is my story and I am sticking to it. I truly believe that there has been an edict issued by the NFL to use the Steelers as an example of how to play a hybrid brand of modern day football. You know a cross between flag football and tackle. Mark my words, there is going to be a playoff or regular season game somewhere that is going to determine the outcome of a Steelers game. These people are affecting the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of a lot of folks.
The “stimulus” package for any NFL city is when a home playoff game is played there. This bonanza is all but wiped out when a team is forced to play on the road. If just 50 percent of the offensive holding calls had been called on New England during their victory over the Steelers, Tom Brady might not have been as “hunky dory” sitting back in the pocket and let’s say the outcome might have been “different.” Officials are meant to “monitor” the game, not create a new game. Steelers Hall-of-Fame linebacker Jack Lambert once had this to say: “quarterbacks should wear dresses.” Hey Commissioner, I hear that Macys is having a pre-Christmas sale on their dresses. Only the early bird gets the worm.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)