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Steelers' coaches encounter problem with headsets

Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers speaks to an official in the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Mass. Credit: Getty Images / Jim Rogash

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- During the first half of Thursday night's Patriots-Steelers game at Gillette Stadium, the Steelers' coaches suddenly started hearing a radio broadcast of the game in their headsets. Apparently it was not the first time something like this had happened, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

After the Steelers lost to the Patriots, 28-21, Tomlin was asked about whether there was a problem with the headsets.

"That's always the case," he said.

At Gillette Stadium?

"Yes," he replied.

A reporter then asked if the coach was saying that was a problem every time the Steelers played at Gillette. Tomlin cut off the question and replied, "I said what I said."

So what exactly happened?

"We were listening to the Patriots' radio broadcast for the majority of the first half on our headsets," Tomlin said.

There has been plenty of speculation over the years that the Patriots purposely interfere with the headsets of opposing teams at Gillette Stadium, but Bill Belichick said his team had problems with the communication system, too.

Said Belichick, "We had a lot of problems. 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.''

He later added, "That's not really a very strong area for me is technology.''

NFL spokesman Michael Signora said after the game that the problem was traced to a "stadium power infrastructure issue, which was exacerbated by the inclement weather."

When it was determined that the Steelers were having problems with their headsets, the Patriots' headset communication system was disabled until the Steelers' headsets were working properly again.

Signora said the problem was resolved after several minutes and pointed out that the NFL, not the home team, supplies the equipment.

"The coaches' communications equipment, including the headsets, is provided by the NFL for both clubs' use on game day," he said. "Once the power issue was addressed, the equipment functioned properly with no additional issues."

This is the third game in a row in which opposing teams have had issues with the Patriots' operation at Gillette Stadium. In the AFC divisional playoffs last year, Ravens coach John Harbaugh complained about what he felt was the Patriots' improper designation of ineligible receivers. The NFL said the Patriots did not break the rules, but the league made a change this year making the designations against the rules.

In the AFC Championship Game, the Colts complained about what they felt were underinflated footballs used by the Patriots in the first half of Indianapolis' 45-7 loss. The complaint eventually led to the controversy known as DeflateGate, which is ongoing. After a federal judge last week overturned a four-game suspension issued to quarterback Tom Brady, the NFL appealed the case.

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