Tomlin Explains Why He Challenged Unchallengeable Forward Progress Play

The Pittsburgh Steelers seemingly forced a turnover in the third quarter of their Sunday road win over the Indianapolis Colts thanks to linebacker Vince Williams ripping the football away from running back Frank Gore after he had caught a short pass over the middle on a 2nd and 9 play. However, after Williams pounced on the loose football, the referees claimed that the fumble did not count as Gore’s forward progress had been deemed stopped. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin then proceeded to throw his red challenge flag even though forward progress rulings can’t be reviewed.

During his Monday press conference, Tomlin was asked why he thew his challenge flag even though he probably knew that particular call on the field was not up for review.

“I know, I just wanted the discussion,” Tomlin said while laughing. “It’s a frustrating element. Sometimes judgement is not up for review. I understand that, but sometimes that judgement is cloudy. I wanted to know what was the indication that forward progress was stopped. Was it the whistle, and if it was, then the ball was out before the whistle and how is that reviewable? Is there audio on the review? It was an interesting discussion but it was a discussion I thought was worth having. I was frustrated because I thought we got the ball. But some rulings are judgement and are not subject to review and I understand that element of play as well.”

If you look at the replays it’s clear that Gore perhaps got the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his forward progress being stopped. Besides, you don’t hear any whistles on the field until after Williams had recovered the fumbled football. It’s no wonder that Tomlin was frustrated and the same goes for Williams.

“I went in with the intention of ripping the ball out,” said Williams after the game. “I popped the ball out before his knee touched the ground. I got robbed. There was no whistle.”

The Steelers trailed the Colts 17-9 at the time and while that particular Colts drive ultimately came to an end on the very next play, their ensuing fourth down punt was downed at the Steelers 1-yard-line. That’s a hell of a yardage swing for sure.

With Tomlin currently a member of the NFL Competition Committee, you have to wonder if forward progress calls being reviewable is something he might be able to push for in the future.

  • ThatGuy

    What would have been nice is for the refs to explain why it wasn’t able to be reviewed because I definitely wasn’t alone in wondering why.

  • Kevin Artis

    We got rubbed in a championship game when Troy got an interception, fell down, lost the ball, recovered it and they said it was incomplete. What’s up playing in Indy?

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m pretty sure this was a classic case of the refs taking control of a game to get a desired result. There is zero reason that the play should have been stopped for forward progress. Williams made a single tackle on Gore that was very quick. He wasn’t stood up in a pile, he was immediately tackled by Williams. “forward progress” was just a convenient call to ensure that it couldn’t be challenged.

  • Ahmad

    To me, if the refs determined that Gore’s forward progress was stopped, they should have blown the whistle. However, Williams ripped the ball out before Gore was down and before any whistle was blown. To me, that’s clear as day a fumble. That definitely needs to be looked at in the offseason. If a ball is loose before a player is down and before a whistle is blown, it should be counted as a fumble. That’s common sense but unfortunately, the NFL seems to be lacking that quality.

  • PittShawnC

    I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen ‘forward progress’ used on a 1-on-1 tackle.

  • falconsaftey43

    exactly, at least not nearly that early. usually when the guy is held up for a significant portion of time.

  • The Chin

    Glad you posted that gif. That’s the one thing about seeing it live. I was at the stadium and of course they aren’t showing that replay at all on the Jumbotron. Vinny got robbed. No question. Weak arse explanation by the officials. Whistle did NOT blow the play dead.

  • stan

    That call was so bad I think the fix was in. Not only was Gore’s progress not stopped, he was actually moving forward. If the Colts had fumbled and recovered you can bet your butt that there would have been no discussion of a whistle. Not only that, but we all know there was no whistle.

  • Steelerbob

    Kinda crazy, that was one continuous play. never for a moment did momentum stop or anything. it was just a regular tackle and he lost it going down. You could always cite forward progress stopped if a guy is not going forward but going down due to a tackle. that was a weird one. glad it didnt affect the outcome.

  • ilamarca

    If he broke that tackle there is no way the ref blows the play dead and spots the ball there.

  • Rob S.

    I’ve seen this so many times in other games where they use “forward progress” as an excuse for not calling the fumble and so it can’t be reviewed because they know they were wrong. 100% guarantee of Gore breaks out and goes for a score they don’t call that one back because “forward progress” was stopped. The excuse would be “we never blew the whistle”

    There obviously cases where forward progress needs to be ruled, like when a guy is being driven backwards or held in the same spot for a full two seconds and guys are ripping the ball out but this is not that case.

  • Ace

    It’s absolute garbage but at least they gave us one back on the AB big catch and run to end the game. Pouncey not being called for being downfield was a huge gaffe. Should have been 5 yards and a first and 15 from the Colts 45. Big swing there.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Hey, I know refs have a hard job! I even put myself in their shoes alot of times, but that call was just LAZY and PLAIN BAD. There were no excuses. How is the players foward progress stopped on a one on one tackle with no struggle whatsoever? Just dumb.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx


  • Josh

    I just remember that play years ago when the Ravens picked up the Steelers RB off the ground and held him suspended in the air until they could rip the ball out. no whistle. Ravens ball. but THIS is stopped forward progress?

  • JNick

    That was my immediate comment. If it’s a judgement call, that’s one of the worst judgement calls ever. By that refs admissio, everyply is dead upon the ball carrier being hit by one player.

  • paltel

    It’s called game rigging. If they can investigate sexual allegations from decades ago, then they should investigate officials for fixxing the gambling point spreads today.

  • Sam Clonch

    That offensive PI on Brown was pretty suspect too IMO.

  • Charles Mullins

    Clearly a horrible call. Refs should get fined.

  • Josh Gustad

    Blown call. Plain and simple

  • Brantley Stockton

    Having heard the game on radio, this is my first view of this play.

    Are we ruling plays dead mid-tackle now?

  • 太阳三联

    True. Refs always trying to dictate our games but the crazy thing is we are still winning somehow. May be ugly but feels good to win those.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Evidently yes. There isn’t one person I’ve heard of that has even tried to defend that call as proper. Forward progress just has never been interpreted like it was yesterday. Blown call period, and I’m glad Tomlin made the refs sweat out an explanation.

  • Jones

    You could hear Tomlin on the broadcast audio asking what stopped forward progress. If it was the whistle, he was making the case that there was no whistle, and he wanted what happened before the whistle reviewed. I was a fan of his making a production over it. Even if they got it wrong to the Steelers detriment, it set the expectation that Tomlin was going to draw attention to their screw ups on national TV. Good decision IMO.

  • gdeuce

    only when Vinny forces/recovers a fumble

  • gdeuce

    that was the 05 divisional round game

  • blackandgoldBullion

    THey review turnovers. So if there is a chance it was a turnover, they should absolutely be looking at the play. But I forgot, that requires logic. It seems the NFL uses very little use for logic

  • treeher

    BS call. Wouldn’t have happened at Heinz Field

  • RyanW

    IMO they shouldn’t be able to call it forward progress if the whistle never blows. That’s just asinine they can call it AFTER the play is over.

  • Bonney

    That game was a wild one.

  • SouthernSteel

    The sad part is 3 refs had it right…then some other ref came running in saying forward progress was stopped…..strange

  • SouthernSteel

    More blown calls = higher the fine

  • EdJHJr

    Bad call when I saw it the first time, now it’s terrible

  • EdJHJr

    Quite or the will review the immaculate reception

  • Bill

    The play is over when it’s over in the officials mind. The whistle comes afterward. That being said, there’s no question that this was a bad call!

  • Michael Martin

    Lots of refs out there being bribed by multiple team owners in order to make sure we don’t get a Seventh Lombardi.

  • David Henderson

    He gets one right finally and the Refs screw him!

  • Reggie Cunningham

    I never heard a whistle. Frank was still driving his legs before going to the ground and losing the ball

  • pcantidote

    It’s plays like that that leave you scratching your head. How on earth could someone think forward progress was stopped? It wasnt even remotely close.

  • Aj Gentile

    Told someone on here Tomlin knew he couldn’t challenge. If the refs ruled it a fumble and reviewed it, could they come back and say foward progress was stopped and reverse it? If so why don’t they do that

  • PaeperCup

    That is the quickest forward progression stop in the history of the NFL.

  • corduroyninja

    I get they want to keep the game moving, but why are there any plays that are non-reviewable?

  • corduroyninja

    Its the two-hands touch rule. If the player is going to the ground and loses the ball, but the defender has two hands on him, the play is blown dead, after the play is over. Player safety comes first.

  • corduroyninja

    Can the refs just call anything? “The ruling on the play was pass interference, so cannot be reviewed.”

  • Worc1

    You obviously have internet, look it up. As for the Cheerleaders answer he is lying. He really doesn’t know the rulebook like he should.

  • ThatGuy

    Uhh refs have explained themselves for less before.