Steelers Loss To Eagles Included One Of Those Touchderceptions

Thanks to a holding penalty on Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro, the fourth quarter deep pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey wouldn’t have stood as a touchdown had it not been ruled an interception instead. With that disclaimer out of the way, I really wonder if this really should have even been ruled an interception.

As you can see in the animated gif below of the replay, it appears as though Heyward-Bey managed to pin the football to his chest and the right arm of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Rodney McLeod prior to both players tumbling to ground in the end zone and both rolling over. At worst, it appears as though both players had simultaneous position of the football when they initially hit the ground and if that indeed was the case, the play probably should have been ruled a touchdown reception and then negated by the holding penalty.

I think we all remember what happened several years ago in the Monday night game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers on the last-second Hail Mary pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver Golden Tate that was ruled a touchdown and an interception by two different officials in the end zone. Even though that play went to official review, it was determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the final on-field ruling of touchdown stood.

Now, here are the applicable rules to the play as I understand them:


A player (or players) jumping in the air has not legally gained possession of the ball until he satisfies the elements of a catch listed here.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 of the NFL Rule Book defines a catch:

A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:

(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and

(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and

(c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).

When a player (or players) is going to the ground in the attempt to catch a pass, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 states:

Player Going to the Ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 states:

Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.


Now, it certainly appears to me that at worst, Heyward-Bey shares simultaneous possession of the football with McLeod when the two players hit the ground and if that was indeed the case, this probably should have been ruled a touchdown and not an interception. Being as all turnovers are supposedly reviewed automatically, I’m sure that happened. However, when CBS came back from their commercial break there was no mention of the review, so I guess we can only assume that there wasn’t enough evidence in the replay angles to warrant the call on the field being overturned.

Once again, had this been ruled a touchdown, it would have been negated by a holding call. However, at least the Steelers would have retained possession of the football. Sure, in the grand scheme of things this play meant absolutely nothing but with that said, it would be interesting to hear from Dean Blandino as to why this was ruled an interception and not a touchdown for the Steelers and if indeed it was because there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn it during the official review.

Let me know if I missed anything related to this play and review in the comments below.

  • Applebite

    It should have been a pass interference, can’t slap the WRs hands away from catching the ball…

    But whatever, can’t blame the refs for this one. They’ll always screw up calls. Got to do better than this.

  • SteelersDepot

    Nobody is blaming the refs for the loss. Just wondering why it was ruled the way it was. As the post states, a holding call would have negated a TD

  • aWaL

    That call was definitely sketchy but regardless it was a terrible loss. Thank God it was non conference so it won’t hold AS much weight as far as seeding goes. Hopefully this was a learning lesson and the team can improve and move on

  • mokhkw

    I thought the same thing initially, TD to DHB going by the Tate TD a few years ago. Only thing I can think of is the reception rule about maintaining possession of the ball while completing the catch- DHB didn’t do that & by the time the players finish the play McLeod is the one of his back with the ball. DHB never completed the catch but McLeod did. In the case of the Tate TD, both players maintained control of the ball which is why I’m guessing it was ruled a TD as a “tie” goes to the offensive player.

    This wasn’t a tie like the Packers/Seahawks TD. But just like Wheaton, if DHB had reached out his hands instead of being lazy & letting it come into his body & giving the defender a chance to make a play on the ball it could have been a different result.

    End of the day the plays means nothing in regards to the result.

  • Matthew Marczi

    All I can say is that I can imagine how the officials would have initially ruled it a clean interception based on the end result of the play, since the defender did come away with it, and the league is clearly driven this year not to overturn anything without clear, indisputable evidence. I’m sure it’s happened, but I actually haven’t seen a single play overturned by review yet this year, at least that I can recall. I wouldn’t be surprised if this year has easily the lowest turnover rate upon review to date.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Nice catch Dave! (Pun intended). It certainly appears to me as if Hey Bey controls it first. It doesn’t even appear close on replay. Thus this should have been ruled a TD, and as you mentioned negated by the holding penalty.

  • deuce_seven

    Not that it matters, but was there a penalty on the 2nd defender who delivered a late hit?

  • Q Fourtyfive Unowho

    Missed call..DHB had possession with one hand as his knee hit the ground.. Touchdown ! Whatever else that happened after that is irrelevant because he was down by contact with possession

  • deuce_seven

    Right. It was a non-conference road game against a good opponent. If you have to lose, that’s the game to lose. If they take care of business at home and within their division, they’ll be alright.

  • Big White

    DHB was the only bright light yesterday. That was a heck of a battle for the ball and he made two really strong special teams play. He deserves a shot at the #2 WR.

  • William Weaver

    Agree. Looks like more of a DHB catch then interception. The Eagle player takes it from him after the catch. Maybe DHB didn’t complete the process and “possession” was lost during process? Only way I see it as INT.

  • SteelersDepot

    only thing I can see as well

  • GreasyBeast

    After the DB made contact with DHB’s right arm before turning his head (pass interference), DHB’s left hand pinned the ball to his chest and never lost contact. This was clearly a catch and just another example of the shoddy refereeing on Sunday. Combine this with the phantom pass interference call against Gay in the second quarter on third and & 6 and several other questionable early calls and the NFL should have a long talk with these referees. Would it have made a difference had they called the game properly, probably not but who knows? Once the Steelers were behind the 8-ball the Eagles had the ability to dink and dunk (their strength) while pinning their ears back and coming for Ben (also their strength) who didn’t have the option to keep them honest by running the ball. It was all downhill from there. The complexion of the game was affected dramatically by a few bad calls (and a few bad plays, I’m looking at you Wheaton) early and this play was just the topper. Did you notice the refs trying to get in a few calls against the eagles late as if they needed to fix the numbers before they get reviewed? Sad display by the Steelers, just as sad by the referees. Sometimes you have to wonder at the reason these guys get it so wrong.

  • GreasyBeast

    Couldn’t reach out his hands as his right arm was knocked away by the DB before the ball got there.

  • PaeperCup

    Which again brings us to the question….what is a catch?

  • Jones

    I didn’t get the impression he was accusing anyone of blaming the refs for the loss, just stating what we all know about this performance.

  • ObiRynDenobi

    I can get an interception too, if refs let me knock the receiver out of the way BEFORE the ball gets there! And as usual least coast announcers pretended not to see that part, but you can bet they would’ve screamed bloody murder for five minutes had it been the other way around!

    That’s only a catch for NFC Least! As usual!

  • EdJHJr

    its painfully obvious the defensive back pushed Bays right arm prior to allowing for a catch. Interference plain and simple

  • k33ger

    he caught passes while being interfered. Unlike someone named Wheaton…

  • Applebite

    That wasn’t my intent, to accuse him of blaming the refs. What I was looking at was, why were the Refs so willing to call the INT, instead of the pass interference that was obviously going on prior. I should have made that more clear…

    The “Catch” rule is about as insane as…. the Steelers losing that game yesterday in said fashion.

  • k33ger

    The refs were really into this game. I was not impressed. Eagles were mugging AB way past 5 yards, and no calls, but willie gay breathes on a guy and it’s a 1st down. Yeah ok.

    Not that it matters. We lost cuz we sucked.

  • JNick

    I said the same thing as soon as I saw the replay but at that point I felt too bitter to even care. It doesn’t look like McLeod had possession of it until after DHB and him were on the ground and started rolling around.

  • mokhkw

    In the slo-mo replay it does show contact when the ball is about 2 yards away and the defender is turning towards the ball. In real time, which is also how they view the replay for TDs and challenges, it’s not obvious. They allow some contact when players turn for the ball, if he wasn’t facing the ball & trying to make a play for it then it would be a flag but when the Defender turns and looks they rarely flag any incidental contact, only pushing off & holding.

    I honestly think that if DHB had extended his arms he would have gotten contacted sooner & drawn a flag before the defender had a chance to turn his head.

  • mokhkw

    I’ve been amazed by the ones they haven’t overturned when they seem to be obvious to everyone else watching.

  • mokhkw

    Somewhere between the incomplete passes that seem like catches & fumbles because the player hasn’t made a “football move” & the “maintaining possession until after the completion of the catch” there’s probably an answer to this that someone, somewhere can explain…..in a way the rest of us can understand.

  • mokhkw

    Yep, that’s the way I see it. Doesn’t really matter who gets hands on the ball 1st, it’s who ends up with it.

  • mokhkw

    McLeod was also touching the ball at the same time DHB rolls to the ground off the defender so at that stage it’s still a disputed possession.

  • mokhkw

    In future when gifs of plays are posted for discussion of Officials’ decisions, can we also have the real-time gif alongside the slo-mo one? It’s how the Officials view the plays and how they interpret replays and TDs from the booth.

  • Kick

    What’s up with shazier? Anybody know?

  • LucasY59

    My first thought was the simultaneous catch rule (thanks for all the rule definitions) I agree that if they went through all those rules while looking at the replay that there could be more than one reason to give possession to DHB and the TD to the Steelers (even if its going to get called back for the holding call)

    I also agree with Marczi’s point on the referee’s seeming to not want to overturn calls on the field (isn’t that the point of having replay???) there are more times where they have not overturned what seemed like obvious replays (the cinci fumble at the end of week 2’s game is the best example, but I think there have been multiple other ones as well) Its almost like they don’t want to admit they can be wrong

  • GreasyBeast

    Receivers are taught not to reach out for the ball until the last possible moment so as not to tip off the defender to turn to look for the ball. DHB played it right, just as he was taught. Defender did a pretty good job too, he just made contact a little early and was unable to wrestle the ball free, though none of that seemed to matter to the referees. The pass interference no call was understandable, the interception call was not.

  • mokhkw

    Agreed but they are also taught to high point the ball as well. I’m not a fan of receivers who try to catch contested balls with their body which is what DHB seems to do a lot of.

  • Rocksolid20

    He’s just his normal injured self .

  • Nolrog

    No one in the NFL has a clue what a catch is and what isn’t a catch anymore.