Frankly, it’s getting ridiculous and becoming way too obvious. Penalties that should be called are completely ignored, while the Steelers get victimized by absurd phantom penalties. It all seemed to start in earnest when James Harrison was penalized and fined for a helmet to helmet hit on a defenseless Cleveland receiver, Mohammed Massouqui. Even though there was video evidence to show that Massouqui was not defenseless, that he voluntarily lowered his target area, to absorb the hit. Regardless, Harrison was fined by the league, and was very vocal about it. The biggest insult was that the hit was legal when it was made. He was essentially fined for the hit after the rule was changed mid-week. The NFL, for whatever reason, has created the appearance, quite convincingly, that they have some sort of grudge against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL claims that these penalties are being called in the name of player safety, but the evidence shows how hypocritical the league actually is.
In the Steelers most recent game against the Bengals, before the game even started, cheap-shot specialist Vontaze Burfict crossed midfield into the Steelers area and headbutted Steelers linebacker Vince Williams. Burfict was neither penalized or fined for his actions, as he should have been. Burfict should also have been penalized and fined for intentionally diving at Ben’s lower legs, after the ball was already released. He told Ben “My bad, I was blocked into you”
The picture above clearly shows that Burfict was not blocked, but was in fact diving into Ben’s left leg. This is yet another dirty play from the game’s dirtiest player, and he clearly should have been penalized and fined, but yet again, in a span of three weeks, the league chose not to impose a fine or penalty for an illegal or dirty hit on the Steelers quarterback. The other hit the league ignored, was Michael Bennett’s helmet to helmet hit on Ben.
Ben has been putting up with these kind of hits throughout his career, and is used to the refs and the league turning a blind eye to them. He is not nearly as protected as Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers, who it seems are the league’s two untouchable quarterbacks. There is no doubt that if Burfict went low on either one of those two, he would have been penalized, fined and suspended. Perhaps the worst and most obvious example was when Baltimore tackle Haloti Ngata broke Ben’s nose by chopping behind his facemask. Although Ngata did receive a minimal fine, the referee watched it unfold, and refused to acknowledge the penalty. This kind of treatment from Goodell and the refs is nothing new for the Steelers, but this game at Cincinnati shows just how flagrant it is.
Antonio Brown was called for an illegal Crack back block against Reggie Nelson. In the photo that leads off this article, you can clearly see that Brown and Nelson are engaging one another, as Brown makes contact above the knees. That was one of those phantom calls. This photo below is less than three seconds later, in front of the same referee who threw the flag for the Phantom crack back block. Why wasn’t Nelson called for a facemask penalty? Or at least for illegal hands to the face?
I’m not one to normally complain about bad calls, because these referees are human, they make mistakes, but what’s happening to the Steelers is hard to ignore. How does Antonio Brown get penalized and fined for his latest endzone celebration, while Seattle’s Michael Barrett and Vontaze Burfict get neither penalized or fined for illegal hits on Ben Roethlisberger? Where was the penalty for AJ Green for his punting of the football into the stands following his 66 yard touchdown reception? Is this not pass interference on Martavis Bryant?
It would be one thing if this were just a few isolated calls over the course of a season, but this is six separate incidents from one game. Are the refs really this bad Mr. Goodell, or are you in fact targeting the Steelers because of some vendetta? If your not targeting the Steelers, are these refs influencing games in ways to satisfy those setting the point spreads in Vegas? Either way I find it hard to believe that your referees are really that inept. If they are, why are they still NFL referees? Maybe, Mr. Goodell, you need to make these referees full time league employees, subject to severe enough penalties for mistakes, other than removing a crew from a prime time game and moving them to a 1:00pm game. It’s hard enough that the Steelers have had to beat more than their fair of injuries as well as the opposition this year, but on top of that, they have to beat your referees as well. It’s your problem Mr. Commissioner, and you need to fix it.