After a loss of any kind in the NFL, fans look for a place to point the finger. Maybe it is at the coaching staff, a specific player or even the organizational decisions along the way. But more often than not, fans want to point to the officiating.
This would certainly be the case for Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans after a stunning loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 16 where the Steelers were flagged 9 times for 91 yards. The frequency was bad enough, but the location/time where they were called was brutal.
On the Saints’ opening drive, trailing the Steelers 3-0, on 4th down Drew Brees threw into the end zone in hopes of finding Alvin Kamara. Joe Haden was in coverage and the ball fell incomplete...then a flag hit the Metrodome turf.
It was clear via replay Haden did not interfere with Kamara catching the pass. It was overthrown, and Haden didn’t impede Kamara in any way, shape or form. Yet the flag put the Saints on the one yard line and equated to an early 7-3 lead.
A similar situation occurred later in the game where Haden was again flagged for a questionable defensive pass interference call on a critical down and distance.
After the game, Haden spoke to reporters about the calls, and his overall frustration with them, and the state of the NFL.
Joe Haden, on the two PI calls against him. Needless to say he's wasn't happy. "We didn't get those calls. It's very unfortunate I felt like those were bad calls."— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) December 24, 2018
More from Joe Haden: "I'm very frustrated. Very pissed. This means a lot to me. To come out here and bust my tail, try to play good defense, it's tough the way the game is changing."— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) December 24, 2018
Haden has every right to be upset with the calls, after all, as was said earlier, they were in critical junctures of the game. Haden also has every right to be frustrated with the way the game is trending regarding these type of infractions. Anytime an offensive player is touched, not only do they get up requesting a flag, but fans have now become trained to expect a flag to be thrown.
Long gone are the days of Mel Blount having his way physically with his opposition. Now, even just the brush of a receiver’s jersey can equate to a flag, yardage surrendered and in the Steelers’ case, points added on the scoreboard.
This loss will continue to sting for a long time, and fans and players alike will be left to wonder “what if” had a ball bounced differently, or a flag was left in a pocket.