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Steelers’ tie with the Browns offered more proof the NFL’s replay system is a joke

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When does a football not hit a helmet? When a trained NFL official apparently can’t see what everyone else sees.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Steelers have many of their own to blame for the come-from-ahead 21-21 tie with the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday.

There were those five turnovers by Ben Roethlisberger that might not have led to any points for Cleveland (you read that right), but certainly prevented Pittsburgh from scoring enough points not to tie. There was that untimely fumble by running back James Conner midway through the fourth quarter that proved to be the catalyst for Cleveland’s unlikely comeback. There were also 116 penalty yards that either helped to thwart one too many Pittsburgh drives or buoyed one too many Cleveland drives.

But there’s one “opponent” who might deserve a little more blame than people think for Pittsburgh’s tie: the referee who didn’t see a football bounce off of a Browns’ player’s helmet, this despite having access to his very own instant-replay monitor.

With the Steelers ahead, 21-7, with eight minutes and change left in a rainy regular-season opener, Jordan Berry punted 36 yards downfield — certainly not a great punt — but after taking one bounce, safety Sean Davis corralled the football at midfield, an occurrence that appeared to excite he and his teammates a little too much. Why? Because, after taking one bounce, the ball hit a Browns’ player on his helmet. Since this Browns’ player wasn’t engaged in a block, the Steelers were going to maintain possession for at least three more plays.

Unfortunately, the officiating crew determined that the ball didn’t hit this Browns’ player’s helmet. Fear not, however, as head coach Mike Tomlin quickly threw the challenge flag.

If the close-up replay was to be believed, there was no way the Steelers weren’t going to walk away with possession.

But as the referee studied the many replays, the CBS broadcast crew of Greg Gumble, Trent Green and Bruce Arians (yes, that guy) kept insisting that there wasn’t definitive proof. I mean, they were certain that the ball had hit the Browns’ player, but there just wasn’t enough proof to overturn the call.

So, why was the television crew so certain? Because the replay had provided the proof that validated Tomlin’s challenge.

Okay, but then why was the CBS crew not sure about there being enough proof? I don’t know — other than because the proof wasn’t “definitive.”

That’s right, I said it. Even though our eyes had witnessed a football hitting a Browns’ player’s helmet, there was no camera angle offering definitive proof of this happening.

What definitive proof does an official need other than the kind that shows something happening?

Beats me.

So, is this sour grapes from a Steelers’ supporter who can’t believe his team’s season has started out with a tie to an opponent that sadly considers it a victory?

It takes a lot of nerve to blame the officials on a day when the future Hall of Fame quarterback played as if he had his own fantasy football team and had started the Browns’ defense.

But I’m at least partially blaming the officials. Why? Because half of Pittsburgh’s six turnovers might never have occurred had the referee been able to see what everyone else did.

Definitive proof? What does that even mean?

It means the Steelers are 0-0-1.