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Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the NFL crack down on defensive penalties

The Pittsburgh Steelers try to prepare their defenders to avoid the new NFL crack down on defensive contact penalties that is a focus for officials entering the 2014 season.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Playing defensive back in the NFL was borderline ridiculous in 2013, and in 2014 it might very well be nearly impossible with the new NFL hyper focus on defensive contact / holding / pass interference.

If you watched any amount of week 1 preseason action last week, you noticed the increased amount of flags thrown on penalties on the defensive players.

According to ESPN, there were 27 illegal contact penalties in the first 17 preseason games, when there were only 37 calls made in all of the 2013 season. During that same span, there were 53 defensive holding calls in week 1, while only 171 were flagged in the 2013 season.

Whether this is the NFL giving the players and coaches a gentle reminder of the new emphasis on the rules for the upcoming season, or if the penalty laden games is the new norm in the NFL is yet to be determined.

Either way, the Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the new rules either way.

"My job is not to worry about what types of flags are being thrown. I could care less what they're focusing on or how many they throw." William Gay told Chris Bradford of "We just have to do whatever not to get a flag," "We can't let that bother us."

Other NFL teams haven't taken such a lackadaisical approach to preparing for the new crack down. The Buffalo Bills have had their defensive backs wear boxing gloves during one-on-one drills, and the St. Louis Rams have had their defensive backs hold tennis balls while in coverage to avoid the grabbing that goes on between receiver and defender.

However you look at the new emphasis on the defensive contact rules, it is just the latest rule to be put into place to improve the offense in the NFL. The NFL product is focused on scoring, and these rules being emphasized shouldn't be a shock to anyone the truly understands that simple fact.