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No replay feed influenced Steelers' failure to challenge TD call

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers apparently didn't challenge a possible touchdown run by Rashard Mendenhall against the Saints on Sunday night because their assistant coaches stationed in the press box couldn't see the same replays that were viewed by the millions of fans watching on TV.

"Maybe we missed an opportunity there, but I don't think that's the reason we lost the football game," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday.

On a second-down play from the 2 early in the second quarter, the officials ruled Mendenhall didn't get the ball across the goal line before he was brought down. NBC replays appeared to show the ball touching the goal line before Mendenhall was tackled, but Tomlin didn't challenge the call.

Mendenhall was tackled for no gain on third down, and the Steelers (5-2) settled for Jeff Reed's 19-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead, rather than the 7-0 lead if Mendenhall had scored. The Saints (5-3) went on to win, 20-10.

The TV sets in the Steelers' booth apparently were tuned to the Louisiana Superdome's scoreboard feed, which failed to show the NBC replays. Such replays typically aren't shown inside the home team's stadium if they might help the visiting team.

In some NFL stadiums, the visiting teams' booths are equipped to receive only the scoreboard feed, rather than the network TV feed, thus limiting the number of replays.

"There wasn't a bunch of video evidence available to us," Tomlin said.

One solution for NFL teams is to buy an inexpensive, portable digital TV that the coaches can use to tune into the network telecast.

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"When you're on the road in different environments, and different setups and different sources of information, it takes a period of time to get adjusted," Tomlin said. The Steelers hadn't played in New Orleans since 2002.

Tomlin also explained Mendenhall gave no sign from the field that he possibly scored. Players often gesture from the field to the sideline if they believe a call should be challenged.

"I've been here long enough and have a decent enough rapport to know when I'm going to get legitimate information or emotional informational," Tomlin said. "Since the game, I found out it was a potentially challengeable play; we didn't deem it to be one. ... The guys on the field didn't seem to think it was a challengeable play, so we didn't."

Tomlin also said "time is of the essence" in such a situation because teams have only two replay challenges per half, and the play clock often is ticking down.

"We're not going to make that an excuse (for not challenging the play)," Tomlin said. "We had more than that opportunity to get the ball in the end zone down there, and we take responsibility for our inability to do that. We're not going to let a judgment on the field be a crutch for us in that particular instance.

"We've got to score touchdowns when we have the ball down there. So I'm less concerned about that element of the play -- whether we challenged it or didn't challenge it. I just want to see us score in those situations."

Notes: Tomlin said DE Brett Keisel (hamstring) could return Monday night in Cincinnati after missing two games. Injuries to Keisel and Aaron Smith forced backup ends Nick Eason and Ziggy Hood to start in New Orleans, and neither was credited with an unassisted tackle.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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