Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
Lost in the mix of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory over the Cleveland Browns was a controversial fourth-down conversion that gave Pittsburgh a first-down and led to a field goal in the first half.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leaned forward on fourth-and-one and didn’t get much. When the sticks came out, Pittsburgh was awarded a first down when most people in Heinz Field (including myself) thought otherwise.
Granted, my perspective was up in the press box -- not on the field --where the best view available was on the television replay. But unless my eyes deceived me, the replay showed space in between the football and the pole.
Here was the explanation from referee Walt Anderson, who stands behind the call:
"It depends on which angle you might be looking. I’m looking from straight on so I guess it’s conceivable [it appeared short]. That’s why I don’t get it back at an angle, because it can be deceptive because there’s a little bit of a distance, probably in the neighborhood of five or six inches between the actual point of the football and where the stake actually sets the ground. If you shot at an angle maybe from back behind the ball it might look like it’s short. If you shot at an angle the other side, it might actually look like it’s further in advance of the stake than it actually is."
Did the call determine the outcome of the game? No. The Steelers beat the Browns by 13 points.
But the purpose of officiating is to get the call right for both teams, and from my view (the replay) the referees missed this one.
Also, in another note for Pittsburgh, kicker Jeff Reed reportedly was cited for public intoxication and disorderly conduct Sunday night after the win. It's his second run-in with the law this year. The Steelers are looking into the situation, but it's unknown at this point if he willl be disciplined by the team.