By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Jerricho Cotchery fell asleep during the Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and host Seattle Seahawks and woke up just in time to see the home team be awarded a victory due to a questionable call by the referees.
The game might have seemed like a dream to Green Bay's players and fans, but the result certainly was a nightmare. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a "Hail Mary'' pass into the end zone as time ran out. Several players, including Seahawks wideout Golden Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings, jumped in an attempt to catch the ball.
Replays showed that Tate clearly shoved Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. No pass-interference penalty was called. Tate and Jennings both got their hands on the ball, but it appeared that Jennings had more of it. The referees ruled that it was a simultaneous possession, which goes to the offense. Tate was given the touchdown, and Seattle won 14-12.
"It was a crazy ending, and I'm glad I wasn't in that game,'' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Tuesday afternoon, after the Steelers bye-week workout. "As an offensive player, sure, I'd say it was a tie (that goes to the offensive player). If I was on defense, no, but it's tough. Like I've said, I'm glad that I wasn't put in that situation.''
Does Roethlisberger believe there is a clear difference between the regular NFL referees and this year's replacements?
"Well, (pauses), it's hard,'' Roethlisberger said. "It's just different, but part of me feels bad for the guys (referees), because they're not used to this. It's tough. Even the regular officials make mistakes. Everyone's human, but they're just getting extra criticized.
"Somebody made a good point this morning, that I don't know if we should be blaming the refs as much as the league, (NFL Commissioner Roger) Goodell, the owners, I don't know who it is. But maybe it's not just the officials. They're in a tough situation, and it can't be easy.''
Steelers safety Ryan Clark actually defended the referees. That's a marked change from his usual reaction.
"It's a thankless job,'' Clark said. "It's one of those jobs where you're not going to be right, no matter what, and I'm not complaining now. I was asked about it, so I'm commenting, but it's not something I'm really concerning myself with. We just have to go out there and play. They're seeing the game a certain way, and as long as it's even (the calls) we can't really argue about it.
"The biggest thing for us is player safety, and as long as the referees aren't putting our players at risk. As long as they're calling the game the way it should be called from a physical standpoint, that's what we're concerned about. If player safety is paramount to the NFL and we feel like the replacement refs are putting that in jeopardy, that's what we're looking for.''
Clark believed it was up to the NFL to get a handle on the situation if the referees were controlling wins and losses, like what happened Monday night.
"The NFL talks about the integrity of the game,'' Clark said. "If they feel like the replacement refs are still holding the integrity of the game intact, then what can you do. (And) I haven't seen many people getting hurt by illegal acts of physicality. So, I don't think Goodell is taking the game in that way.
"We want the best referees out there, clearly, and we want the guys who have been trained for it. If Ed Hoculi was out there, would I still disagree with him? I surely would, if I feel like he's wrong. But I think the refs are taking a lot of flak for something that's kind of out of their control. (And) I don't think players are taking advantage of that. Honestly, I'm not really concerned.''
Roethlisberger Wheeling and Dealing
Roethlisberger was asked how much freelancing he did at Oakland, as some believed he called plays that weren't even in Todd Haley's playbook.
"It wasn't necessarily that I called plays as much as I used hand signals,'' Roethlisberger said. "I really didn't think it would get blown up as much as it did, and I know some people are saying that I've been resistant to Todd. But it's one of those things that we went to Todd, and it's in the playbook now. It was simply a signal that I used with our receivers on two different occasions.
"One was on the fourth-and-one, (where) we got the ball to Mike (Wallace). The other one was later on third down to Emmanuel (Sanders). So, we converted on both plays. It worked out. ... We used signals that we've had a long time that weren't necessarily in the offense, but they are now. We put them in there.''
Darrius Heyward-Bey update
Heyward-Bey was released from the hospital Monday afternoon with a concussion and neck strain after an overnight stay. He suffered the injuries after a jarring end-zone hit by Steelers safety Ryan Mundy, who reached out to the receiver to monitor his progress.
"I was just relieved to hear how he was feeling, because I didn't know how he reacted and what was going on with him,'' Mundy said. "Once I heard back from him, I was relieved. I'm glad he wasn't hurt real bad on that play.''
Mundy did not know if he would hear from the NFL concerning a fine for the hit. There was no penalty called on the play, although some believe it was a helmet-to-helmet connection that Mundy initiated.
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said he felt better Tuesday than he did Monday, and he practiced after missing the past two games with a strained right calf. ... Outside linebacker James Harrison, who has missed all three games this season after arthroscopic surgery Aug. 15 on his right knee, also practiced. ... The Steelers (1-2) practice again Wednesday and then are off the rest of this bye week. They return to practice Monday and travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles Oct. 7.