James Lang/USA Today Sports

NFL's dismissal of two Steelers Deflategate controversies exposes Patriots double-standard

Alex Reimer
August 10, 2018 - 2:23 pm

The Steelers have now been caught playing with deflated footballs twice since Roger Goodell suspended Tom Brady four games and docked the Patriots a first-round pick and $1 million for the same offense. And absolutely nothing has happened to them. 

The double-standard is alive and well.

Philadelphia radio personality Howard Eskin reported the Eagles found at least one Steelers football that was “very deflated” during their preseason opener Thursday. The NFL investigated the football and deemed it was defective, according to the league’s vice president of football communications Michael Signora. The whole inquiry took roughly 12 hours to complete.

It would be ridiculous for any team to try to cheat during the preseason, which is why it’s disingenuous to compare this deflated football incident with the Patriots’ episode three years ago. But two seasons ago, the Giants accused the Steelers of playing with under inflated balls in a regular season game. Less than one hour after the news was reported, the NFL issued a statement, saying all “game ball procedures were followed and there were no chain of command issues.” 

Curiously, the league didn’t address the balls’ air pressure, and instead focused on chain of command. The omission exhibits an understanding of the Ideal Gas Law, which says footballs lose air pressure in cold weather.

The NFL, of course, didn’t apply the Ideal Gas Law when it measured the Patriots’ footballs during halftime of the 2015 AFC championship. 

Kvetching about the NFL’s mishandling of Deflategate is passe. But this short-lived preseason controversy is another example of how the Patriots are seemingly judged differently than other teams that break the rules. The Steelers have now been caught twice in three years playing with improperly inflated footballs. Both cases were quickly dismissed without any additional inquiries being conducted. It’s hard to imagine the Patriots receiving the same kind of lenience.

Look no further than the Seahawks, who were docked in back-to-back years for violating the league’s concussion protocol and OTA contact rule. They were fined in both instances and lost their fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft for the latter. 

Nationally, however, Pete Carroll isn’t viewed as a malicious rule-bender. The Seahawks’ organization doesn’t have nearly the same stink attached to it as the Patriots do for taping the opposing sideline from the wrong area of the stadium and playing with deflated footballs.

As Dave Wedge and Casey Sherman’s superfluous Deflategate retrospective shows, Goodell largely punished Brady for his uncooperative behavior during the investigation. But still, given that the NFL paid more than $2.5 million to Ted Wells to investigate the claim, it was portrayed as the football crime of the century.

Now the Steelers have been accused of it twice. The accusations have been greeted with crickets. 


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