The Pittsburgh Steelers managed to avoid a potential catastrophe last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers when Kenny Pickett threw a pass to RB Jaylen Warren as the latter ran out to the sideline. Pickett ultimately threw the ball behind Warren and the receiver couldn’t bring in the ball, seeing it hit the ground for an incompletion. However, the pass was right on the line of being a backward pass, thus making it a live ball that the defense could have recovered.
Green Bay would ultimately recovered the ball near the goal line, but the refs blew the play dead, signaling that it was a forward pass. Packershead coach Matt LaFleur threw his challenge flag after the play, hoping to overturn the initial ruling on the field of a forward pass. The refs reviewed the play, and ruled it an incomplete forward pass.
LaFleur was asked about the play following the game and said that he thought it was pretty clear that the play was a backward pass and that the call was wrong on the field. Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett was asked about the play as well, while appearing as a guest on former NFL quarterback and current analyst Robert Griffin III’s RG3 an The Ones podcast, being asked by Griffin if he truly thought the pass went backward.
“I don’t think so,” Pickett said on RG3 and The Ones podcast, which aired on the show’s YouTube channel. “The refs got it right, man. The refs got it right. They had time to review it. It came back as a forward pass. It’s a forward pass.
Of course Pickett is going to defend the ruling that went in Pittsburgh’s favor. To his defense, the officiating crew did not overturn the call that was made on the field. CBS Sports rules analyst Gene Steratore weighed in on Twitter after the game, providing the criteria that the officiating crew follows when ruling a forward or backward pass, stating that definitive evidence needs to be provided in order to overturn the ruling on the field.
Based on the review, the referees didn’t have the definitive evidence needed to change the call on the field, thus allowing it to stand. Had the officiating crew ruled that the play was a backwards pass from the beginning, then it likely would have been difficult for Pittsburgh to overturn the call based on how close the ball was to being a backward pass.
So, was Pickett’s pass to Warren truly a backwards pass? It’s hard to tell as an argument could be made either way. Still, the refs ruled in favor of Pittsburgh, preventing a potentially back-breaking play where Green Bay gets the ball inside Pittsburgh’s 10-yard line, allowing the Packers to keep the ball and prevent a possible seven-point swing.