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Steelers League admits another error, says referee missed touchdown

Wednesday, September 27, 2000

By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Coach Bill Cowher has grown as weary of the apologetic telephone calls from the league office as he has of losing close games.

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The Steelers got another one from the NFL this week when an official from the league admitted that referee Walt Coleman erred by not overturning a call with instant replay Sunday at Three Rivers Stadium, when the Steelers lost 23-20 to the Tennessee Titans.

Officials ruled on the field that wide receiver Hines Ward did not score against Tennessee. He had stretched the ball over the goal line as he was tackled after a pass reception. Officials spotted the ball at the 1.

Cowher used a coach's challenge for a second opinion from instant replay. Coleman upheld the ruling even though television replays clearly showed Ward scored, something the league confirmed. Because Cowher lost his appeal, it automatically cost the Steelers a timeout.

The controversy over the ruling might seem moot because Kordell Stewart scored on the next play, but the lost timeout in the second half proved crucial in the closing seconds when the Steelers were driving toward a possible tying field goal. They used one play on a spike to kill the clock, a play that might have helped them get closer so Kris Brown could have attempted a field goal shorter than 50 yards. He missed a 50-yarder in the waning moments which would have tied the score.

"I was told that it should have been a touchdown," Cowher said yesterday. "That's great to know."

Last week, Jerry Seeman, the NFL's senior director of officiating, told Cowher his officials erred when they did not stop the clock when Kent Graham was sacked at the end of the game in Cleveland. Had they stopped it, the Steelers likely would have gotten off a chip-shot field goal to tie the score.

Cowher has favored the use of instant replay to correct errors by the officials.

"I like the system," Cowher said. "The system's not the problem."

Meaning, those applying it are?

"I'm heading into some bad territory," said Cowher, aware of the league's propensity to fine coaches for criticizing officials.

"It's water over the dam."

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