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It’s foolish to talk in absolutes about the Kenny Pickett QB sneak

The Steelers took over at their own 14-yard line with 5:28 remaining in Sunday’s Week 7 clash against the Rams at SoFi Stadium on Sunday evening.

Pittsburgh was ahead by a score of 24-17, but the Rams still had two timeouts plus the two-minute warning at their disposal. Therefore, the Steelers’ offense, one that, once again, didn’t really come alive until late in the game, had to pick up a couple of first downs in order to secure the victory.

The Steelers did pick up two first downs and walked away with a huge road win.

But while the first first-down conversion–a 31-yard reception by receiver George Pickens on third and three–was conventional, the second first-down conversion–a quarterback sneak by Kenny Pickett on fourth and one–was controversial.

Why was that second first down controversial? Because it was close, and you couldn’t tell where Pickett’s forward progress was stopped before he was sent to the turf. Sure, Pickett ended up behind the line of scrimmage after the play was over, but the near-side official’s mark indicated that he picked up the forward progress needed before being pushed to the ground.

The play occurred after Los Angeles exhausted its final two timeouts, so head coach Sean McVay could not challenge the spot. And because the play occurred before the two-minute warning, the play wasn’t subject to an automatic review by the replay officials.

The Steelers were then able to run out the rest of the clock.

What can you do? If you’re a Rams fan, Steelers critic or totally unbiased, you may be saying today that Los Angeles was screwed by the officials.


Are you sure about that?

The Steelers faced a fourth and one from the Los Angeles 39, and according to the side judge, Pickett advanced the football to the 38, good enough for a first down by the slimmest of margins. The only straight on angle we saw of the play came from the far side, and you could not see where the football was in relation to the 38-yard line. Another angle showed Pickett’s knee touch down at some point, but the football isn’t placed where the knee touched down, it’s placed where the football was when the knee touched down.

Was the football at the 38 when Pickett’s knee touched down? It was according to the side judge, the only official who had a proper angle. Was he wrong? He may have been, but we can’t definitively say he was without more evidence.

Fact is, had Pickett been marked short, Steelers fans would have also had little evidence to suggest he picked up the first down. Again, the official with the best angle made the call, and unless a new angle is discovered at some point, nobody can argue it one way or another.

The fun part in the aftermath of Sunday’s controversial call has been listening to fans and the media, as they often do, talk in absolutes about the play as if the call robbed the Rams of a victory.

Sticking with reality, Los Angeles would have had the football at its own 39 with two minutes and change remaining. I’m not saying the Rams wouldn’t have been able to move the football 61 yards in that time. After all, two-plus minutes is an eternity in today’s NFL–even without any timeouts left. Plus, Cooper Kupp. Puka Nacua. The Steelers secondary…it would be quite disingenuous for me to suggest that Pittsburgh’s defense absolutely would have gotten the job done at that point.

But what about the extra point? Are you absolutely certain that kicker Brett Maher, who was one of three on field goal tries and zero for one on his lone extra-point attempt–and looked pretty damn bad with each miss–would have converted?

We know for certain that Maher screwed his team out of seven-total points on Sunday, but we can only speculate that the officials screwed the Rams out of one more possession.

Were the Rams screwed out of one more possession? Maybe, but it doesn’t mean they were absolutely screwed out of a win.


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