Steelers tight end Jesse James is still coming to grips with the most scrutinized moment of his three-year career — a potential game-winning touchdown catch negated by officials over the “survive the ground” rule, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports.
James figures that had he not tried to stretch over the goal line, he might be talking about a win over the New England Patriots and angling for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
“It sucks,” James said.
With 28 seconds left in Sunday’s contest at Heinz Field, James caught a 10-yard pass by Ben Roethlisberger and, as he fell to the ground, angled the ball over his left shoulder. James looked poised to possess the ball through the catch, but stretching caused it to slip when hitting the ground. After a review of three-plus minutes, officials ruled no catch. The Patriots won 27-24 after Roethlisberger threw an interception two plays alter.
The ruling angered many fans who felt James only lost the ball because he was trying to score.
“I felt like he caught it and was making a football move,” Roethlisberger said.
James hears all of that. But after thinking about the play over a few days, he can’t help but feeling he could have done more.
“A lot of [friends and family] said to keep your head up — I don’t need that,” James said. “It’s part of football. You can learn from it. Can’t leave the game in the official’s hands. Make the play more secure than it was.”
James, who has 41 catches for 363 yards and three touchdowns on the season, got unusual attention Sunday night. His phone kept lighting up.
So he turned it off.
“Hearing from mostly family and friends, people I haven’t talked to in a while texting me,” James said. “Social media was pretty crazy. I was getting overloaded. I quit looking after the first hour; it was too much.”