Patriot Games? Steelers Headsets Receive FM Radio Broadcast of Season Opener

Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin
The Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Steelers encountered mysterious communications issues in Gillette Stadium to start their NFL season.

“That’s always the case,” a visibly annoyed Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told the media after the game about the communications breakdown. “Yes,” he said in confirming he spoke of Gillette Stadium. “I said what I said.”

Pittsburgh’s headsets received transmissions from 98.5 The Sports Hub’s broadcast of the game during the snafu. The officials initially cut off New England’s communications to level the playing field during the first half.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said the radio problems plagued both teams, nearly forcing Tom Brady to switch helmets during the game.

“We had a lot of problems,” Belichick said. “We had to switch headphones a couple of times. The communications system wasn’t very good.”

Despite the headset problems, Pittsburgh’s offense drove at will early on only to miss two field goals and settle for three to close the first half down 14-3.“We let the league officials on site handle it,” Tomlin told reporters after the loss.

The Patriots won the opener 28-21 fueled by a dominant Tom Brady performance that unleashed four touchdowns on 25-for-32 completed passes. Rob Gronkowski snagged three of Brady’s touchdown passes.

The radios receiving FM radio follows accusations made at ESPN and Sports Illustrated about alleged gamesmanship, skullduggery, and cheating by the Patriots. SI wrote:

Home teams are supposed to provide certain communications equipment, but opponents often don’t trust the Patriots to do it. One team griped to SI that New England supplied a corroded battery pack. Another current head coach brings his own equipment because he doesn’t trust the Patriots to supply anything of quality. A representative of a third team says the Pats provided headset gear that looked “like it had been run over by a lawn mower. Frayed wires, the speaker is all chopped up. . . .” [Patriots spokesman Stacey] James says that it is league policy for all headset batteries to be changed 30 minutes before a game, and that the team has “always complied with that.” He adds, “We’ve never been cited by the league for doing anything wrong as it pertains to communication device violations.”

Another team executive says, “Anybody who has gone in there in the last five years will tell you some sort of problem or snag they never hit any other place. They are the worst hosts in football.”

Mike Tomlin’s body language suggested that he would second that assessment. He groused, “We were listening to the Patriots radio broadcast for the majority of the first half through our headsets.”

Tomlin refused to say whether he encountered such issues visiting other NFL stadiums. When pressed by a reporter, who stressed what “a very serious thing that you’re indicating,” an angry Tomlin cut him off: “I’m not indicating nothing. I’m telling you what happened.”