The Steelers are the latest team to be victimized by the catch rule. With seconds left in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Patriots, tight end Jesse James hauled in a Ben Roethlisberger pass and lunged for the end zone, and it looked like Pittsburgh would finally beat New England. But upon review, James' touchdown was overturned and the pass was ruled incomplete.
According to the rules, it was the correct call. In fact, there's no ambiguity about that.
"We were inside of two minutes and in order to have a completed pass, a receiver must survive going to the ground," referee Tony Corrente told The Athletic's Mark Kaboly after the game. "In this case, he had control of the football but he was going to the ground. As he hit the ground, the ball began to roll and rotate and the ball hit the ground and that's the end of it at that point."
And before you say, James' knee was already down, Corrente would remind you: "He lost complete control of the football. That was the ruling out of the replay."
It's, though that doesn't mean football fans -- including former coaches and players -- hate the rule any less.
Here's Tony Dungy:
“In flag football, high school football, college football, any place you play football other than the NFL, that’s a touchdown.”— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) December 18, 2017
– NBC's Tony Dungy on Steelers TE Jesse James’ TD catch being overturned
The problem is: you can catch a football, not be “upright”, not be a “runner” (maybe you’re “lunging”), clearly posses & control the ball, and at that point, no matter what happens at the ground it should be a catch... because....wait for it...you *caught* it.#EndThisRule https://t.co/PJ4GLzGAcG— Jacob Tamme (@JacobTamme) December 18, 2017
It doesn't help when the NFL head of officiating Al Riveron, in his explanation of what happens, begins with, "As we can see here, Roethlisberger completes a pass to James..."
It just looks that way, Al. Turns out, that's an incompletion.
Also not helping: The disparity in what does and does not constitute a catch:
NFL: where your butt cheeks hitting the ground counts as a TD, but reaching for the end zone after making a catch is an incompletion.— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) December 18, 2017
"I'm sick about it," James said after the game. "I'll be thinking about this the rest of the night. I had my knee down, turned up the field. Whether they consider that a football move or not is up to them to decide. I guess I don't know a lot of things about football. I thought it was a touchdown for sure."