Official criticized for calls in Super Bowl XV assigned by NFL to Seattle's game in Pittsburgh.
RENTON — A lot has changed in the five seasons since Seattle played Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL. The Seahawks have switched coaches twice, hired a new president, and only two players are left on the roster.
One thing hasn’t changed: The officiating of that game remains a sore spot in Seattle.
That’s why the NFL assigning Bill Leavy, the referee for Super Bowl XL, to Sunday’s Seahawks game in Pittsburgh is bound to cause irritation and anger.
It will be the second time the Seahawks have played the Steelers since that Super Bowl, which Pittsburgh won 21-10.
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The officiating of that game was criticized not just in Seattle, but nationally. Seattle was penalized seven times in the game, but two in the fourth quarter were particularly problematic.
A holding penalty was called against Sean Locklear, nullifying a Jerramy Stevens reception that would have given Seattle a first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 1-yard line. Then, after an interception, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was penalized for an illegal block below the waist on a play in which he made a tackle.
Two first-half plays also were considered controversial. A Seattle touchdown was nullified by a pass-interference penalty against Darrell Jackson, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was awarded a touchdown on a 1-yard run after it appeared the Seahawks had stopped him short of the end zone.
When Leavy came to Seattle last year during training camp to speak to the team about new rules, he also talked to reporters — unprompted — about the officiating of the Super Bowl, specifically those two penalties in the fourth quarter.
“It was a tough thing for me,” Leavy said. “I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter, and I impacted the game, and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights, and I think about it constantly. I’ll go to my grave wishing that I’d been better. I know that I did my best at that time, but it wasn’t good enough.
“When we make mistakes, you got to step up and own them. It’s something that all officials have to deal with, but unfortunately, when you have to deal with it in the Super Bowl, it’s difficult.”
The teams were informed Monday that Leavy would be working Sunday’s game.
Leavy did not officiate a Seahawks regular-season game for the next three seasons while Mike Holmgren remained Seattle’s coach. Leavy was assigned to officiate Seattle’s second game under coach Jim Mora in 2009, which was played in San Francisco. He also officiated Seattle’s exhibition game in Denver last month.
Cornerback Marcus Trufant and linebacker Leroy Hill are the only Seahawks still on the roster who played in that game. Holmgren is now the president of the Cleveland Browns, Pete Carroll is Seattle’s coach and Mike Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher as Steelers coach.
Holmgren didn’t return calls Monday, and Trufant and Hill were not available.
Leavy will be working with a different officiating crew than he did in the Super Bowl, where the groups are comprised of top members of various crews. Leavy will work Sunday’s game with his regular officiating crew.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org