Steelers' Rooney fined $25K for criticizing officials

Updated: October 27, 2006, 6:36 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who all but served as the campaign manager for new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, on Friday was hit hard by the man he helped shepherd into office less than three months ago.

Goodell fined Rooney $25,000 for his criticism of game officials after the Steelers' overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. Adding to the irony, the action came on the same day league officials announced Falcons defensive end Chauncey Davis, whose apparent helmet-to-helmet collision on Ben Roethlisberger knocked the Pittsburgh quarterback from the game in the third quarter, would not be fined.

Roethlisberger suffered a concussion on the play and missed one day of practice this week, but he will start Sunday at Oakland. Some observers felt Davis would draw a fine for the hit, but the league officials who review the videotape of every game and closely scrutinize every questionable play obviously disagreed.

On Thursday, the NFL fined three Steelers -- wide receivers Hines Ward, Nate Washington and Santonio Holmes -- $5,000 each for an excessive celebration in the game. The celebration followed Washington's 10-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Pittsburgh was penalized 15 yards for the incident, was forced to kick off from the 15-yard line, and Atlanta scored on the ensuing possession.

Rooney did not mince words in the aftermath of a bitter defeat, one in which he clearly felt referee Ron Winter's crew was in error on several calls.

"Those officials should be ashamed of themselves," Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "That last call, you don't get that kind of call."

The Steelers' chairman was referring to a false-start flag on Washington, a penalty that by rule required a 10-second runoff on the game clock, preventing the Steelers from attempting a potential game-winning field goal in regulation. He also was critical of the officials for a tripping call against kicker Jeff Reed on a return by the Falcons' Allen Rossum late in the second quarter.

"They said he tripped him," Rooney said. "He got beat out, the guy dodged him, and he got faked. He didn't trip him. [Rossum] ran over him and fell."

Asked about the calls Sunday, coach Bill Cowher declined to comment, noting: "I don't feel like giving [the NFL] any more money." But Rooney apparently had no qualms about speaking out, or about suffering the consequences that came down Friday. "I don't care. They need to know," Rooney said.

In fact, just to make sure he drove his point home, Rooney handed Goodell a copy of the Post-Gazette, including his quotes, at a league meeting in New Orleans on Tuesday. By that time, Goodell already was aware of Rooney's sentiments about the officiating. Further evidence that Rooney was determined to get the most mileage for his money: The Steelers actually announced the fine Friday.

One of the NFL's most influential owners, Rooney played a significant role in Goodell's selection as the successor to retired commissioner Paul Tagliabue. During the balloting, Rooney delivered a speech in which he championed the candidacy of the longtime NFL executive. And it was Rooney, serving in his capacity as co-chairman of the commissioner election committee, that went to Goodell's hotel room in Chicago to tell him that he had been chosen as Tagliabue's successor.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.