Urban Legend?

Did you hear the one about the Steelers receiving less than equal consideration when officials call penalties? This urban legend began shortly after a young Bill Cowher was penalized for having twelve men on the field. An aerial photo showed evidence to the contrary, and an incensed young Cowher dashed into the middle of the field and shoved the evidence down a field judge's shirt.

He might want that one back because, after a decade has gone by, any Steelers fan will still take the time needed to describe their horrible treatment from the NFL. The moral of this urban legend deters coaches and players from getting personally involved with decisions made by officials during a game.

Some fans claim it may be essential for the Rooneys to remove Cowher and his "ref-monkey" from their backs, citing it as a plague that has haunted the team since his shirt-stuffing affair. Never upstage a referee because they are more mafia-like than the mafia, which also has never existed. Everybody knows it's there but you can't put your finger on it, at least you'd better not.

Officiating is tricky and cursed with the physical limitation of having only one view per person on any given play. For this reason instant replay must not be removed, but the point remains it is an inexact science. By the end of a game one can come away with the impression that the officials have been something other than impartial. Don't flatter yourselves; they screw everybody at some point or another.

Still, every once in a while we see games that are difficult to explain. These normally rear their ugly heads in the form of judgment calls. Last week's Steelers-Rams game had a few and they occurred at the worst possible moments for the Steelers. The league has supposedly stressed to those officiating to allow the game to be decided by the players on the field.

Even to the casual NFL observer this was a poorly officiated game. Fans in general do not like illegal procedure called on offensive linemen before the offensive line is set, and the "Plexico penalty" went a little over the top. Games like that fuel the Cowher legend.

A new urban legend in the making?

Following last Sunday's game, Plaxico Burress (in his latest public rant) called out the entire NFL officiating community, stating publicly that, "They were just looking for a reason to throw a flag." This alone is a $20,000 fine if blurted out by an NFL coach, and does not go unnoticed. Last year Plaxico Burress had pass interference called seventeen times against defenders as he was competing for the ball. At the halfway point this year he has three. Most note that Burress does too much pushing off this year to have it called. Plaxico has just vowed to do even more of it.

Burress may have worn out the benefit of doubt that officials seem to give "big play" receivers as far as pushing off. Perhaps he should have proven in the past that he could make more big plays without pushing off. Or perhaps Cowher's "ref-monkey" rides his back also? Whatever the case, he needs to stop pushing off, and his foolish statements will not help his team. "Offensive pass interference" and "illegal use of the hands" have always been at the refs' disposal to curb, and to this point we have not seen it.

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