The NFL will review the problems involving the Steelers' headset communications during Thursday night's 28-21 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, but initial evidence suggests there was no foul play on the home team's part.
Steelers coaches were unable to communicate with one another through most of the first quarter and instead heard a feed from the Patriots' radio broadcast.
The league said in a statement late Friday afternoon: "We believe that the audio interference on Steelers headsets was entirely attributable to an electrical issue made worse by the inclement weather; that it involved no manipulation by any individual; and that the Patriots had nothing to do with it. The issue was promptly resolved and there were no further problems."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin complained about the problem after the game and suggested this issue was nothing new at Patriots home games. "That's always the case," he said. But Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said the team will not file a complaint against the Patriots.
Per NFL protocol, as soon as the Steelers reported the headset malfunction, the Patriots' headsets were turned off so the team did not gain a competitive advantage.
"We had a lot of problems," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We had to switch headphones a couple times. The communication system wasn't very good . . . We almost had to switch helmets with [quarterback Tom] Brady there at the end. Couldn't get the plays in to him. It was a problem all night."
"That's not really a very strong area for me is technology," he said.ESPN.com reported Friday that NFL security is investigating Steelers tight ends coach James Daniel for "allegedly assaulting and verbally accosting" a Patriots fan on the way to the locker room at halftime.
Some teams have complained over the years that their headsets have been subjected to intermittent interruptions at Gillette Stadium. That includes former Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, who said after a 2005 playoff loss in Foxborough that the team's headsets at one point "mysteriously malfunctioned."
Other coaches who have voiced concerns include former Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz in 2006 and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who agreed with Martz's assessment.
According to the NFL's Game Operations Manual, the coaches' communications equipment, including the headsets, is provided by the NFL for both clubs' use on game day. The home team is responsible for the installation and maintenance of that equipment. On game day, all communications personnel from both teams are required to work with NFL communications to make sure the wireless equipment is free of interference. If there are any problems, they must be addressed quickly.