PITTSBURGH (Jan. 17, 2006) -- Following a trying weekend filled with reversals, replays and reprimands, NFL officials got a strong show of support from an unlikely source: Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher.
Cowher not only refused to criticize the officials for reversing upon review a possible game-clinching interception by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu against the Colts -- the NFL later said the reversal was wrong -- he gave them a vote of confidence.
"Our officials are doing the very best that they can do. Obviously, at times, there's going to be mistakes made," Cowher said. "To me, those guys are human like the rest of us, and we're moving on."
Cowher also dismissed linebacker Joey Porter 's angry comments that the officials were determined to get Indianapolis into the AFC championship game, calling them "ridiculous."
Porter criticized the officiating repeatedly during postgame interviews, saying, "At one point, I didn't think the refs were going to let us out of here with a victory."
Cowher, no doubt trying to temper Porter's unusually strong comments, said that the Steelers have a 15-minute cooling off period for players but that, "we've got some guys who could probably use a little longer than that."
"Joey's comments at the end of the game were certainly made out of frustration," Cowher said. "But there's no conspiracy, or things of that nature, that's ridiculous."
The call that most upset the Steelers during their dramatic 21-18 win over the top-seeded Colts in Indianapolis came when Polamalu made a diving interception of a Peyton Manning pass with Pittsburgh trying to preserve a 21-10 lead with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
After Polamalu made the catch, he rolled over with the ball in his hands and fumbled as he was getting up to run, then fell on the ball. The call on the field was an interception, but referee Pete Morelli reversed it after the Colts challenged, ruling Polamalu had not completed the catch.
The call stunned the Steelers -- numerous replays showed Polamalu controlling the ball throughout and fumbling only upon getting up to run -- and the Colts went on to score a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to make it 21-18 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining.
Mike Pereira, the NFL's vice president of officiating, said in a statement that Morelli misinterpreted the rule determining a catch, and that the call on the field should have been upheld.
Cowher declined to talk about that call or any others.
"I know a lot of talk has taken place with the officiating," he said. "The biggest thing to understand is that all of our questions have been answered. The league got back to us about that. It's important now that we move on."
The Polamalu play was one of only a series of disputed rulings during the NFL's four divisional playoff games last weekend. Two touchdowns were reversed in the Panthers' 29-21 win over the Bears in Chicago, and there was considerable debate whether Champ Bailey fumbled out of bounds at the end of his pivotal 100-yard interception during Denver's 27-13 victory over New England on Saturday night.
Patriots tight end Ben Watson ran from one corner of the field to another to knock the ball out of Bailey's hands just as Bailey was about to score. If the officials had determined the ball crossed the goal line before going out of bounds, it would have been a touchback and New England would have gotten the ball at its own 20.
Instead, the officials determined Bailey fumbled out of bounds, and Mike Anderson went on to score on a 1-yard run to put the Broncos up 17-6.