NEW ORLEANS — Taking a quick walk around the internet after the game, it looks like there's a lot of blame being put on the officiating crew after the Steelers' loss to the Saints.
Sure, there's the argument that if the Steelers take care of business on the road in Cleveland, Denver and/or Oakland there isn't a reason to blame anyone when you lose to the best team in the league on the road. Or if you close out against the Chargers like the Ravens were able to Saturday.
Those are valid arguments. Blaming officials typically is not. But, even though it's always easy to claim an officiating crew influenced a loss, it doesn't mean they don't sometimes have a hand in the outcome.
Looking back to even before the game, our Dale Lolley wrote that the Steelers could have issues with the Craig Wrolstad-led officiating crew. The reason was that his team called a rather tilted 106-67 penalties with the road team accounting for the big number.
Now, the Saints were penalized more than the Steelers, 9-6, contrary to the Wrolstad crew's tendencies, but the most damaging two on the night were both on Joe Haden. The first set Steeler Nation, and pundits everywhere, on a tear criticizing the call — including Ryan Shazier:
How you do win if the REFs are against you. Come on
Haden was again penalized on fourth down when he thought he broke up a pass to give the Steelers back the ball and a chance to close the game out.
Steelers' special teams coach Danny Smith laid into officials on the sidelines after a Sean Davis hit dislodged the ball from Michael Thomas. He complained about the first of the Haden calls as well as that the crew didn't call it a fumble on the field yelling, "You guys have really messed this game up."
Following the Saints' go-ahead touchdown call, which was reviewed on the field and properly ruled a touchdown, T.J. Watt chose to revisit the second Haden call that extended the drive. He looked at field judge Tom Hill, pointed at him after clapping in his face, accused him of handing the game away and then turned his finger gun into a thumbs up while laughing maniacally.
That's the first image up top — Watt pointing at Hill just after it was announced the Saints took the lead. Then his thumbs up with a laugh. The rest of the photos involving penalties, complaints or officials follow after.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
[caption id="attachment_744651" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Steelers at Saints, New Orleans, Dec. 23, 2018 - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]