The two pass interference penalties against Joe Haden on Sunday in Week 16 were in crucial spots and contributed to the loss to the New Orleans Saints. Pittsburgh Steelers fans were livid at the refs, again, because of two close real-time questionable calls against Steelers on fourth down plays.
The first play came with 3:10 left in the first quarter with the Steelers leading 3-0. The Saints were facing a fourth down and one on the Steelers 34 yard line. All Pro running back Alvin Kamara was lined up out wide against nine-year NFL vet Joe Haden. The best matchup for the Steelers. Kamara has the fourth most receptions of any running back in the league while Haden is the best cover player on the team.
In the videos below (Please keep in mind that video editing is still a work in progress for me) there are six different angles shown, but keep in mind it was the back judge who threw the flag and no other angles matter except for his view. He is not wearing a GoPro so there are only three angles similar to his. The first angle sheds light on what his angle is to the play in reverse. It is not exact, but it is close. The second angle is almost directly behind the play and a bit up from what the back judge would see. He would have a better angle than what the camera shows. The last one shows an end zone shot from way above and to the right of the back judge.
Was the ball uncatchable? To the back judge, it was the pass interference that led to the ball being uncatchable and that it was Haden’s hand preventing Kamara from getting further underneath the ball to make a catch on it. Steelers fans will disagree that this was the case.
The fully extended arm is pointed out several times in the clips for a reason. Any fan watching games on Sunday will see the refs call offensive pass interference when a receiver has his arm extended out and appears to be pushing off.
The second pass interference call against Haden was just as important and hotly contested as the first one. At the two minute warning, the Saints have a crucial fourth down and two and trailing 28-24 at the Pittsburgh 26. In real time Steelers fans jumped out of their seats calling the pass interference bogus. When slowed down Haden had his left arm wrapped and that will get called almost every time. Haden could have been called for holding on the play and he had a handful of Saints wideout Michael Thomas’ jersey.
Questions that will never be answered. Why did Haden extend his arm when he appeared not to need separation vs. Kamara? How much separation did he get from the extended arm? Was the pass catchable? Why did the ref at the goal line not throw a flag on the perceived interference? Would holding have been called instead of pass interference if the ball would have been called tipped? On the second interference, does the pass gets tipped at the line which would have negated the interference and why was the not reviewed?
Those are questions Steelers fans will ask for a long time, especially if the loss keeps them out of the 2018 playoffs.