On Sunday penalties tested the will of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, the Denver Broncos picked up over 25% of their first downs via a penalty. Of the 6 flags thrown that extended Denver’s drives, four of them came on pass interference calls. The other two resulted because of undisciplined plays as CB Mike Hilton was caught roughing the passer, and S Minkah Fitzpatrick got flagged for a horse-collar tackle on TE Noah Fant. In reference to the pass interference calls, Tomlin explained, “They were able to extend some drives because of (pass interference) and things of that nature. When you get (the other team) to that point where you have them in a third-down situation, and you have the ball snapped and you're executing the rush, there's just too much ground covered to start over and give them a new set of downs."
The penalties called on the Steelers’ defense hindered their chances of winning, but the offense had their fair of struggles too with penalties. When asked about the number of penalties called on Pittsburgh this past week, Tomlin supplied a blunt response.
“We were too highly penalized in the game," Tomlin said. "It hurt our efforts on both sides of the ball. It hurt our efforts in terms of possessing the ball on offense. We had two critical holding calls in the first half of the game that put us behind the chains and essentially stopped drives. Ball possession and drives, there's too much scarcity in that discussion to get major penalties and throw yourself behind the chains.”
Tomlin would go on to emphasize that they, or any team, cannot continue to play this style of football.
“We're just not good enough to overcome those things at this juncture. I would imagine not many of us in this game are that good at this juncture.”
In terms of penalty yardage, the Steelers lost nearly 60 more yards in comparison to their opponent. Understanding that penalties at this rate will not often result in wins, HC Mike Tomlin has taken action in order to put an emphasis on this issue as his team prepares for a Week 3 battle against the Houston Texans. The head coach in his 14th year with Pittsburgh stated that the team is going to bring in officials to monitor practice this week. Tomlin stated that he has been in contact with the NFL to assure that they are abiding by the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Tomlin’s reasoning for taking this measure is to sharpen up his squad and focus on discipline for this week as well as the rest of the year, something that very well could have lost them the game last Sunday. The decision to include officiating during practice is not a common trend across the league, but Tomlin and his staff deemed it to be necessary in order to build on their 2-0 record.
“The bottom line is we need to ratchet up our quality of play in that area, and that's just a reasonable approach to take in doing so, Tomlin stated.”
Tomlin made clear that neither he nor his team is willing to make excuses for their high rate of penalization against Denver. He explained his job is to coach and not officiate the game, and his side has to adjust to the calls being made, not dwell on them. The Steelers will look to minimize penalties against the Houston Texans on Sunday, and Mike Tomlin will hope the officiating at practice this week will enhance their chances of achieving just that.