Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Is it a good thing that NFL officials appear to be less likely to overturn calls involving pass interference even though such plays are now open to replay challenges and reviews in 2019? After the penalty against Steelers rookie receiver Diontae Johnson last Saturday wasn’t overturned, it’s really hard to say.
If you’re a Steelers fan who was feeling lots of angst this past offseason about the NFL’s decision to subject pass interference penalties or possible pass interference penalties to potential replay challenges by head coaches, you may have said, “Yeah, right!” to the notion that the on-field call (or non-call, as the case may be) would be factored more heavily into the final decision.
And if you were a Steelers fan who watched Mike Tomlin challenge the offensive pass interference penalty called against rookie receiver Diontae Johnson on what should have been the first of two second-half touchdown receptions in a preseason game against Kansas City on Saturday, you may have said, “Huh?” when the infraction wasn’t overturned.
I mean, I know Tomlin has quite the losing streak going on replay challenges, but if there was ever a time for it to end (at least, unofficially), it was at Heinz Field on Saturday, in a preseason game, on a play that seemed to be tailor made for what the new rule was implemented for.
The penalty against Johnson seemed to be about as phantom as the two defensive pass interference calls against cornerback Joe Haden last December 23 in a devastating Week 16 loss to the Saints. Speaking of New Orleans, that call against Johnson last Saturday appeared to be as egregious as the non-call on what looked like the most obvious defensive pass interference in NFL history in the final seconds of the NFC Championship Game between the Saints and Rams.
Los Angeles benefited from the non-call and went to the Super Bowl. The Saints were totally screwed in front of the entire football world and sued the NFL (or, at least their fans did).
If you’re not going to overturn a call like the one against Johnson, what does this tell us? If the on-field ruling is given greater importance when determining pass interference than it is when trying to figure out if a receiver made a catch, is this the league’s way of telling fans that pass interference really is the ultimate judgement call?
If so, then why make this change at all?
I suppose the bright side to all of this is perhaps not having to worry as much about the officials placing every incomplete pass under a microscope in the final two minutes of a half or game, when such plays are open to automatic review.
As I’ve said a few times, I don’t want to have to hold my breath every time the Steelers defense forces an incomplete pass on fourth down inside of two minutes. Maybe I will have to hold my breath, but I’ll do so with the knowledge that the original call is likely to stand.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out over the course of the 2019 regular season.
I can only hope the Steelers walk away from this new rule totally unscathed in 2019.
That is, of course, unless they totally benefit from it at some point.