Monday night went extremely well for the Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin. But there was one curious decision in the first half that resonated into Tuesday.
Receiver Johnny Holton drew a penalty for offensive pass interference. Tomlin threw the red challenge flag. After further review, the ruling on the field did not change.
Tomlin, a member of the Competition Committee, knew or should have known that NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron won’t be overturning a ruling on the field of pass interference unless visual evidence shows that there was no contact whatsoever from the player flagged for interference. Under the replay-review standard requiring clear and obvious evidence that the ruling on the field was incorrect, the existence of any evidence of contact initiated by the player flagged for interference will make it impossible to find that the judgment exercised by the official in real time was clearly and obviously wrong.
That reality didn’t stop Tomlin from claiming that he didn’t, and doesn’t, know that he’s wasting his time if he tries to challenge a pass interference call.
“I have no idea what it is going to look like moving forward,” Tomlin told reporters, via Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com. “If anybody does, I’d appreciate it. I don’t think any of us have a feel on what that looks like and I am just being honest.”
So how will Tomlin handle these decisions in the future?
“I have no idea what I am going to do moving forward because it appears to be a moving target,” Tomlin said.
But it’s not a moving target. As to non-calls of interference, the target for replay review has indeed moved higher than we thought it would be, with the precise line between Rams-Saints at one extreme and clear invasion of the discretion of the officials at the other not yet known. As to interference calls, the target for overturning them was always ridiculously high, and every coach should have realized that he’d be wasting a challenge unless the replay angles showed that the player hadn’t touched the opponent in any way.
If Tomlin truly didn’t know that before Monday night, he definitely should know it now — and he and every other coach should be explaining it that way so that the media won’t be contributing to the confusion that the fans currently are experiencing.