Controversial Overturned Steelers Touchdown Helps Seal Patriots Win

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

To fans of American history, Jesse James is an infamous thief who robbed banks of the Midwest in the 19th century. To Pittsburgh Steelers fans, particularly during Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season, Jesse James is a tight end who was robbed of a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots, in turn robbing the team of the top spot in the AFC.

With 28 seconds left in the game, this happened.

The play was initially ruled a touchdown, giving Pittsburgh the lead. As officials deliberated and eventually overturned the call, Dallas Cowboys fans—even ones not watching football—froze, then started to convulse, forced to relive in their mind the tragedy of #DezCaughtIt.

Once again, Twitter debated about what is and isn’t a catch in the NFL.

Two plays later, Ben Roethlisberger threw a game-ending interception with five seconds left for a 27-24 defeat.

According to the letter of the NFL rulebook—and the precedents set by Dez Bryant’s failed touchdown attempt in January 2015 and, back before we knew what a hashtag was, that of Calvin Johnson—it absolutely was right to overturn the call on the field:

If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete.

Is it a bad rule? Probably. But until they change it, what James did at the line of scrimmage is not a catch.

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