Shutdown Corner - NFL

Referee Gene Steratore said he didn't award the Miami Dolphins the football after Ben Roethlisberger's(notes) controversial fumble on Sunday because there wasn't "clear evidence of the [Dolphins] recovering the ball." Well, Gene, here are some pieces of evidence for you:

The ball is loose and there are three players in this screenshot that appear to have a chance at the ball: No. 58 Karlos Dansby(notes), No. 59 Ikaika Alama-Francis(notes) (middle) and No. 94 Randy Starks(notes) (right). All those players are wearing white jerseys. You can see Roethlisberger to the right of Alama-Francis, crouched down at the goal line. 

Two Dolphins have their hands on it; Alama-Francis and Starks. Pittsburgh's Flozell Adams(notes) has now seen the ball and is jumping over Alama-Francis in an attempt to grab it. Roethlisberger is even more out of position before, but his hand is making a stab at it. 

Now, chaos. Pittsburgh's Jonathan Scott(notes) (No. 72) is in on the scrum too (his is the white-gloved hand adjacent to Alama-Francis' helmet. If only there were a picture taken from a different angle to see what was really going on underneath.

Thank you, Alan Diaz of the Associated Press. Alama-Francis has the ball, while Starks' black-gloved hand is also on it. All of the other Steelers are out of position to get it. Roethlisberger's hand is on Starks' arm. No shot that Big Ben recovered that fumble.

Pretty clear the Dolphins ended up with the ball, right? Perhaps, but it's not indisputable. If this was the only evidence, Steratore was right to award the ball to the team that fumbled it. But it's not the only piece of clear evidence. The biggest one is below:

As we pointed out Sunday, the Dolphins came out of the pile with the ball. I drew a helpful circle in case that you, like Gene Steratore, couldn't see the ball.

There it is. Clear as day. Steelers fans will say that the play was over, so it didn't matter who recovered the ball. Nonsense. Steratore didn't say that he gave Pittsburgh the ball because the play was over, he said he did it because there was no evidence to suggest it didn't recover the ball. Well, there's your evidence.

Regardless, as you can see in this picture, other officials are sorting out the mess in the pile while Steratore rushed to rule it a touchdown. They were still involved in the play. You know the players involved were fighting for the ball like it was still alive. What else did Steratore need?

The Dolphins got hosed on that call. Steratore didn't lose them the game; they did a good job of that on their own by failing to get in the end zone on two drives in the first quarter that started inside the Pittsburgh 25. But the officials didn't help matters by chickening out and falling back on the rulebook instead of applying common sense. 

H/T to The Daily Dolphin and my old Churchill Observer colleague, Ben Volin, for the idea for this post.

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