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Benz: Steelers Protecting the NFL Shield over their own team

HEADSETS AN EXCUSE? NO! WORTHY OF COMPLAINT? YES.

In New England, my experience has been that if you aren’t a Patriot fan, and you have the audacity to even acknowledge any of the Patriots’ past transgressions (real, imagined, or alleged) many within their fan base are quick to drop you into one of three categories…

1.”Jealous Hater”

2.”Conspiracy Theorist”

3.”Troll”

Since I’ve already been labeled all three in that region, I shouldn’t feel obligated to do this, but I’ll do it anyway. Here is my mandatory-Pats-suck-up preamble-disclaimer before writing about the Gillette Stadium headset snafu Thursday night as the Patriots were beating the Steelers 28-21 so I’m not immediately cast as a “jealous, hating, trolling conspiracy theorist”:

I think the Patriots would have beaten the Steelers without the headsets going out. I get the Pats were affected too. I realize the team is responsible for the “installation and maintenance of the equipment”, but the league is responsible for the headsets. I think the Patriots are flat out better and I actually picked them to win by more. If the headsets did work I would have strongly suggested that Mike Tomlin tell Keith Butler to send in the intricate “Hey, how about covering Gronk” defensive alignment. And I don’t think the Pats’ Super Bowl titles need an asterisk because of Spygate, DeflateGate, or even the Fisher Price communications system that seems to be installed in their stadium.

Phew! I’m sure that will be ignored by New Englanders “defending the wall.” But at least I put it out there.

Look, the headsets are the rough equivalent of the questionable PSI footballs in the AFC Championship game. Both were likely immaterial to the outcome of the contests. But that doesn’t mean the league should blow off the issue because competitive balance could have been compromised.

The league claims it investigated and almost immediately absolved New England. But Steeler ownership never even formally complained. And it should have.

Initial reports came out on Friday that the Steelers were filing a complaint with the NFL. But they didn’t. Here is the club’s statement. “We have provided information to NFL representatives regarding issues that occurred Thursday night at Gillette Stadium with our coach-to-coach headset communications system. The problem was addressed during the game and we did not have further problems in the second half. We did not file a formal complaint, nor do we plan to do so.”

steelers Why not? The coach publicly complained about the headsets “always” going out in New England. Your own team website posted a highly suggestive column about the headsets. So by not formally following up aren’t you making your own media staff and your own coach look bad?

I can only guess at the strategy of the Rooneys here. Perhaps they are embarrassed by this story coinciding with allegations that assistant coach James Daniels kicked a New England fan at halftime. Maybe they got spooked when they were reminded that the Jets didn’t complain about the headsets after issues during the 2010 AFC title game at Heinz Field. Hey, they are trying to get that Super Bowl in a few years. So why rock the boat? Or they could have been satiated by the league’s planned investigation which included Bill Belichick’s insistence that New England had problems too.

But that doesn’t jibe with their own website’s story about how and when the headsets were getting scrambled vs New England’s. And the Steelers are one of many teams to complain about headsets in New England. I haven’t heard any other complaints aside from New York about Heinz Field. And I haven’t heard the Steelers complain about headsets in any other stadium.

In my opinion the most disturbing thing that came out of last week’s coverage of the heightened Spygate allegations that emerged via ESPN and SI, was an old news clip I saw.

KDKA dug out a sound bite of Dan Rooney staunchly standing behind Roger Goodell’s decision to handle the situation the way the commissioner deemed appropriate. At the time the team penalties seemed severe enough. But I thought Belichick could’ve been slapped with a suspension. And I had no Idea why the tapes were destroyed.

This week, finding out the extent of NFL’s organized cover up to brush the story under the rug was extraordinarily bothersome. Things such as allegedly doctoring Mike Martz’s statement, to how the tapes were destroyed, to perhaps turning a blind eye to other perceived Patriot activities (like, ya know, rumors of headset tampering) should have made fans of any team that lost a big game to New England angry.

But there was Rooney. Front and center. Putting the NFL shield in front of the team’s hypocycloid logo. Calling Spygate a “non issue.” Stating it had “no impact on the game.”

And applauding Goodell for taking “appropriate action.”. All that despite losing two AFC Title games many of their players are convinced were compromised by New England’s signal taping.

I get pursuing the greater good of the league even at the expense of your own team. But in this case, don’t you at least make the effort file an initial complaint? Don’t you stand by your own team’s reporting on line? Don’t you back your coach?

You could have always dropped the complaint in the long run. Not every NFL case IS REQUIRED to go before a judge, you know. Now who is to say it’ll ever get fixed or properly monitored by the NFL and the Pats the next time you go there?

I know Goodell is on shaky ground, but is ART II lobbying to take his gig by being all things to all people within the group of owners? I get the nobility of personal team sacrifice in the name of protecting the image of the league. But battling on behalf of this league’s image is a lost cause. Look out for you own team’s best interests more. Clearly, that’s what’s happening in New England.

But yeah, yeah, yeah…you would’ve won the game anyway. I know. See above.

About The Author

Tim Benz

TIOPS Columnist

Tim Benz can be heard on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network post game show and M-F 10-1 on TribLive Radio

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