What just happened?
The most unlikely of scenarios that could have happened yesterday didn't happen due to the most unlikely series of events. Not that the post mortem analysis on the Steelers' 2013 season will fairly boil down to that, but in the hours that followed the Chargers' controversial win over the Chiefs, thus denying the Steelers from qualifying for the postseason, it is hard to focus on anything else.
The Steelers won, as they should have. The Ravens and Dolphins lost; the former not too surprising, the latter being the biggest upset of the three. The Chiefs led the Chargers by 10 in the second half, but Phillip Rivers finally figured out the Chiefs' back-ups, and got two scoring drives at the end. Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel moved his team into field goal range, and usually reliable kicker Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal. On that kick, the Chargers had seven players lined up on the line of scrimmage to the right of the snapper, which is, by definition, a penalty. There were eight total players, but seven of them were on the line. An official stood over that side of the ball, those eight players no more than four yards from where he stood. No penalty. It should have been called, and Succop should have had the chance to kick again from 36 yards out.
In overtime, Eric Weddle too a direct snap on a fake punt, and pushed into the line of scrimmage. It appeared the pile engrossed him at the line of scrimmage. The pile moved and was still moving, no whistle had blown, and it appeared the ball popped out right before a player's helmet came off. It did not appear Weddle had enough yardage for the first down. Officials still did not blow the whistle.
The Chiefs established clear possession of the ball and ran it back for a touchdown. Officials huddled and ruled the play was dead, and gave the Chargers a first down.
We've opined enough on this topic, and we will be the first to admit the Steelers are not in the postseason more on their own accord than the incorrect decisions of officials in a game they were not playing. That does not change the fact the officiating crew in that game sullied the product of the National Football League to a point there is a legitimate and alarming public mistrust with the league.
Regardless of what league spin doctor/head of officiating Dean Blandino says, the gaClme was marred by incompetence; that incompetence was displayed at a level any fan who maintains full time employment could not expect to operate under and maintain his/her full time job.
Speaking of Incompetence
A report indicating Browns president Joe Banner left the team's suite with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter of his team's 20-7 loss to Pittsburgh. This isn't to say the alleged decision to fire head coach Rob Chudzinski came from the results of that game, and only that game, but the product his team displayed was very nearly worthy of such a decision on its own.
I ranted about this in the second half open thread. Color analyst Steve Beuerlein spoke poetically about how the Browns' executive management felt they had been successful in changing the culture within the organization. I found that comment not only absurd and baseless, but highly comical, considering the product we saw on the field.
The Steelers did not play an outstanding game. Ben Roethlisberger was off all game. While Pittsburgh ran the ball effectively, it was tough, at first glance, to determine if that was due to their own doing, or the Browns seemed just disinterested in competing.
Judging by the level of effort provided by all-world wide receiver Josh Gordon, it's really hard to suggest this team was motivated to play and win. It was an embarrassment, and frankly, despite Beuerlien's report, clearly indicative of a culture that didn't feel competing to win was worth its time Sunday.
I'm not going out of my way to ensure the fans of the Cleveland Browns are given anything, but I feel sorry for them today. If that's really what their last five or six games have been like, I agree with their alleged decision to fire Chudzinski, and find a coach who can assist in their efforts to field a team that gives a damn about winning.
The Steelers will select 15th in the upcoming draft (more on that later this morning), and that likely means they'll be able to land a good player. Unlike Cleveland (who's selecting fourth), what the Steelers gained by winning Sunday, and the subsequent excitement, is help build confidence in their future. This team was 0-4 and 2-6 this season. It finished 8-4 over the final 12 games of the season, which included gut-wrenching losses to Baltimore and Miami, not to mention the 55 points allowed to New England.
This team showed throughout the final three quarters of the season it won't quit, it's not backing away from a fight and it's capable of playing high level football.
Personally, I'll take that culture over Cleveland's under Chudzinski and their fourth overall pick any day.
- Chiefs vs. Chargers final score: Steelers out of postseason after San Diego overtime win
- Steelers drafting 15th heading into Sunday Night Football
- Steelers 2014 schedule: Pittsburgh clinches second place in AFC North with win, Ravens loss
- AFC Playoff Picture: Steelers postseason life rests on the resting Kansas City Chiefs
- Browns vs. Steelers final score: Pittsburgh mows over listless Cleveland, clinch 10th straight non-losing season
- Jerricho Cotchery injury: wide receiver injures right shoulder in end zone