Seahawks hurt their cause as much as refs

Conspiracy theories don't consume me. The Pittsburgh Steelers are more than deserving of their fifth Vince Lombardi trophy as one for the thumb fits like a glove. And complaining after the fact is a province reserved for losers.

With all that said, the Steelers received more than their fair share of special assistance from the men in black-and-white stripes in Super Bowl XL and the breakdowns raise serious questions about the state of NFL officiating.

Following the Steelers' convincing victory that was aided by the benefit of several controversial calls, one anonymous Seahawk griped to an ESPN reporter: "You know, that's what happens when the world is against you. No one wanted us to win. They wanted Jerome Bettis to win and go out a hero, and they got it."

I'm holding back a smile and several coughs after reading those sour grapes.

I don't buy that the league conspired against the Seahawks, just as I don't buy what Steelers linebacker Joey Porter was selling when he claimed that the league wanted Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to win their playoff encounter and proved that bias by overturning Troy Polamalu's interception.

However, I do believe the officials erred on several calls in the biggest game of the season Sunday night and that there were lots of bad calls throughout the postseason

Seattle was penalized for 70 yards, and lost 91 yards due to penalties. One of the most glaring errors was the ruling that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger crossed the goal line. He never did. He just got really, really close. Replays -- at least the multiple angles provided by ABC -- proved that fact.

I'm not sure what view referee Bill Leavy witnessed, but it was an awful call. Roethlisberger landed an inch short of the goal line and he hurriedly reached the ball over the plane. It wasn't exactly a confident, speedy signal of two arms up for the touchdown.

"I don't think he scored," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said.

Gee, you think so? Come on, we know so.

Matt Hasselbeck's touchdown pass to Darrell Jackson in the first quarter was negated for offensive pass interference, but it was clear that Jackson barely pushed the defensive back. There was jostling between both players prior to the extended arm the back judge saw. It was borderline at best to throw the flag. Let the guys play.

The holding call appeared questionable, too, in the fourth quarter that nullified tight end Jerramy Stevens' catch down to the Steelers' 1. A potential 98-yard touchdown drive unraveled as Hasselbeck compounded the bad call with his interception and a head-scratching personal foul for a low block.

The primary, self-inflicted reasons why Seattle lost the football game: Stevens displayed the hands of a fumble-fingered infant, Hasselbeck wasn't sharp at all, kicker Josh Brown couldn't have hit Lake Michigan if he had been standing on a boat in the Greektown harbor and Seattle failed two out of three times in the red zone.

Bottom line: The Steelers took advantage of every opportunity, and they earned this win.

However what shouldn't be lost in the celebration is the fact that the league needs to perform a long, brutally honest analysis of its officials.

Perhaps the league should seek full-time refs instead of weekend workers who are primarily insurance salesmen, lawyers and high school principals. Take the officiating as seriously as the blocking, tackling, coaching and scouting.

The game is what truly matters, and the officials are supposed to maintain order and prevent chaos. They're not supposed to become a major part of the storyline and fans' everlasting memory of an annual NFL extravaganza.


In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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