Mehno: Dwelling on hypotheticals maddening


That was the NFL’s message to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday, the day after their season ended.

So sorry. Our bad. Everyone makes mistakes.

The NFL determined that the San Diego Chargers were in an illegal formation when the Kansas City Chiefs missed a 41-yard field goal on Sunday.

There should have been a 5-yard penalty, and the Chiefs should have tried another field goal, this time from 36 yards.

But that didn’t happen. The Chargers went on to win the game and claimed the last playoff spot in the AFC.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was diplomatic about the whole mess, noting correctly that the Steelers created their own problem by being dependent on the results of other games to get into the playoffs.

That is certainly true. A 0-4 start is a huge obstacle.

What happened in the Chiefs-Chargers game is precisely why former coach Bill Cowher always refused to play what he called the “what-if” game. It can drive you crazy.

But indulge it for just a moment: What if the Steelers had played better in their opener against Tennessee? What if they hadn’t missed so many tackles against Minnesota? What if the always-reliable Shaun Suisham hadn’t missed a couple of field goals against Oakland? What if the Steelers had been able to tackle Terrelle Pryor in the same Raiders game?

See? It can drive you crazy.

All that said, it’s a special kind of aggravation that comes from knowing a bad call in a game 3,000 miles away put the final nail in a disappointing season.

For all the professionalism he presented at his season-ending news conference on Monday, it’s not hard to imagine Tomlin cutting loose a vehement “darn it” behind closed doors when the NFL admitted the mistake.

It’s OK if Steelers fans do the same.

Just don’t dwell on it.

Bad idea

Every time there’s a missed call, there’s also a call for the NFL to hire full-time officials.

It’s a foolish idea.

If it happened, the NFL would start by losing a lot of its most experienced officials. They have careers apart from officiating one game per week.

What would they do during the week, and what would they do during the six months when no games are being played?

There’s never a viable answer for that question. The incorrect perception is that officials show up on Sunday for the game, not unlike someone working a high school game on a Friday night.

Peter King was embedded with an NFL officiating crew and did an excellent series for Sports Illustrated’s website. It’s hardly a part-time or casual job.

The other major sports have full-time officials. There are still mistakes. NFL coaches work year-round and still make bad calls and incorrect personnel decisions.

Things happen. Nobody wants that, but they do.

The NFL has a game-delaying extensive replay system in place, but it still couldn’t prevent what happened in the Chiefs-Chargers game.

Mehno can be reached at