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League Apologizes To Steelers For Two Blown Penalties On Monday Night Football

The situation was first and ten on Pittsburgh's own 36-yard line. Carson Palmer drops back and throws a short pass to Chad Ochocinco, falling harmlessly incomplete. Surprising, I know. In the process, Casey Hampton was thrown into Palmer's lower legs and called for roughing the passer. The foul pushed the Bengals offense, still down 27-13 with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, to Pittsburgh's 21-yard line.

On the very next play, Terrell Owens ran vertical down the left sidelines with Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor trailing. When the pass fell incomplete -- I know, surprising -- Owens reacted very passionately at the side judge, obviously arguing with controlled patience and maturity that Taylor held him up. No call. Except a few seconds later, the Back Judge, feeling bad for Owens, or actually seeing a foul, threw the flag.

The penalty pushed the Bengals to Pittsburgh's one-yard line. After a no-gain, Cedric Benson burrowed behind Domata Peko for a touchdown that reduced Cincinnati's deficit to six points.

On Friday, the league informed the Steelers that both calls shouldn't have been called according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Steelers have been informed by the National Football League that two penalties that almost cost them in Monday night's victory in Cincinnati should not have been called, the Post-Gazette has learned.

Coach Mike Tomlin sent a complaint to the league office earlier this week, challenging the roughing-the-passer penalty on nose tackle Casey Hampton and a pass interference penalty against cornerback Ike Taylor on back-to-back plays that allowed the Bengals to move to the Steelers 1 in the fourth quarter.

The pass interference can be somewhat understood. ESPN's awesome camera work never provided a great angle for the interference in the first place and it seemed like the back judge was merely reacting to Owens' enthusiastic performance that gave Cincinnati the ball at the one-yard line. Dear Owens, we love you, bro.

Hampton's foul is also somewhat understood, but only if there's an understanding of the actual rule. The fifth provision of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12 states: "A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him."

The key point is the final sentence, where if the defender is blocked into the passer without an "opportunity to avoid him", then it's not a roughing the passer penalty. A Bengals offensive lineman clearly threw Hampton to the ground, which even forced Dave Lapham on the radio to wonder if the flag being thrown wasn't a holding call on the Bengals. On his way down, Hampton hit Palmer below the knees and dropped the quarterback.

Of course in the end, all of this is meaningless. The Bengals got the call and the Steelers, even if the Bengals completed their comeback and won the game, would have simply received the same apology letter.

Now, back to that Domata Peko block.