By JOE MANDAK
A Pittsburgh Steelers fan imprisoned for murder has sued the National Football League and wants a federal judge to delay the remainder of the playoffs so the Steelers can have another chance to qualify for them.
The Steelers were denied a sixth and final playoff seed in the AFC when the San Diego Chargers beat the Kansas City Chief, 27-24, in overtime in their final regular season game.
The Dec. 29th game went into overtime after Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop missed a last-second 41-yard field goal try that would have won the game. The NFL has since acknowledged San Diego should have been penalized for lining up too many players on one side of Kansas City’s center, meaning Succop should have gotten another chance to make the kick from 5 yards closer.
Daniel Spuck, 45, who’s serving an 11- to 22-year sentence for third-degree murder at a state prison in Mercer, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, filed a hand-printed federal lawsuit on Jan. 2, against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Spuck argues that the Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs “because the defendants through their employees (game official and instant replay booth) were negligent and fraudulent when they missed an illegal alignment by the Chargers ...”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid called timeout after the missed field goal to argue with officials about the illegal formation. But illegal formations are not reviewable under the NFL’s instant replay policy, so the play stood.
Spuck’s complaint seeks a court order for relief “on behalf of Plaintiff, Pittsburgh Steelers players, coaches and fans.”
Among other things, he wanted the playoffs delayed for seven to 10 days to allow time for a re-kick by Succop, a coin toss, or a neutral site game between Pittsburgh and San Diego to determine a sixth seed in the AFC playoffs.
The NFL isn’t commenting on the lawsuit and, so far, federal judges in Pittsburgh have not scheduled a hearing on it.
Since it was filed, the sixth-seeded Chargers won their wild card playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals last week and face the Broncos Sunday afternoon in Denver.
Spuck isn’t represented by an attorney and filed the lawsuit himself. Federal court records indicate he frequently files lawsuits – most often habeas corpus petitions seeking to overturn his conviction or related appeals – or otherwise claiming his civil rights have been violated while incarcerated.
He was convicted in March 1996 and sentenced a month later for the February 1995 stabbing death of his estranged wife’s ex-husband. He was also convicted of endangering his wife, who survived, by stabbing her until she uttered the words “I love you.”