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Film RoomThrowback Thursday: Why penalties in the Steelers Super Bowl XL win were legitimate

We take a look back at some of the most controversial calls in Super Bowl XL and why they were correct.

Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated

Have you ever been a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers when a person who is a fan of a different team brings up Super Bowl XL as if the Steelers used spygate, deflated footballs and PED's all throughout the game and is the only way Pittsburgh won their fifth Super Bowl?

While the game is now just more than a decade old, it used to be one of the more controversial games to talk about in recent NFL history. The then head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Mike Holmgren, made it known publicly that he was displeased with officials throughout the game; so much so in fact that during the Seahawks' final drive of the first half with the Steelers only one score ahead, he mismanaged the clock and lost out on an opportunity to lead his team to a lead or at least close the gap.

We take this Throwback Thursday to look back at some of those plays and show why there was no reason for them to be considered controversial and how the referees got the calls right.

Push off from Jackson:

The Seahawks came out and looked good on their first drive of the game with short passing and a consistent attack that had the Steelers' defense on their heels early. Matt Hasselbeck would throw a touchdown to Darrell Jackson that would be nullified by an offensive pass interference call on Jackson for pushing off Chris Hope.

As you can clearly see on this review, Jackson clearly uses his hands to push off Hope and create the necessary separation to make the reception. This is a textbook example of what offensive pass interference looks like. There should never be any controversy over this call.

Roethlisberger TD:

On third and goal, the Steelers went to their second year quarterback to make his way into the end zone. While this play was much closer to call than the Jackson push off, you can see when we slow it down that the ball is in Ben's right elbow as it comes down on the goal line. An initial call of a touchdown would be a tough call to overturn, and it was upheld that Roethlisberger broke the goal line. Even if you want to argue the notion that the ball still does not look like it crossed, you're putting the Pittsburgh Steelers 1/100th's of an inch outside the end zone with a huge quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, a dominant offensive line led by Alan Faneca and the best big sized running back to ever play the game in Jerome Bettis. It's not hard to imagine the team finding a way to score a touchdown in that situation.

Holding call:

As the game went on, the Seahawks would continue to try their best to fight back when they had a big play called back for holding Clark Haggans on this play. While there have been (and were in this game) more blatant holds missed by officials, Haggans still beats his man to the edge and gets held as a result, providing Hasselbeck the pocket he needed to make the play.


The idea that the Steelers got over in Super Bowl XL is a tired and poorly substantiated stance. Not only were the calls legitimate in the first place, but this same team showed earlier in the playoffs what a team needs to do when a bad call is made against them during a key moment of a game.

While trying to put away the Indianapolis Colts, Troy Polamalu intercepted a pass by Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter that would have put the Steelers in scoring range and all but ended the game. Polamalu rolled over himself after making the diving catch and as he stood up with the ball, bounced it off his knee and lost control of it for just a moment but would regain control on the field. The initial rule was an interception and then a fumble by Polamalu, but the result being Pittsburgh's ball.

The officials would overturn the call to give Indianapolis the ball and breathe new life into their playoff hopes. The call would later lead to an apology being given by the NFL for the mistake, as Polamalu made a football move prior to losing control of the football. Regardless of catching the ball, head coach Bill Cowher would tell his defense to "just keep playing" and to not worry about whatever the decision the officials made. When the interception was overturned, Pittsburgh's defense made no fuss and went right back onto the field looking to make another play that could send them to the AFC Championship.

Pittsburgh dug deep and overcame a tough call on the same playoff trip that would include the Steelers defeating the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. It's time that the notion that the Seahawks were cheated out of the game died.