The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-0 in the NFL Preseason, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas of the team which need focus. Obviously, there are issues in all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams, but there is another facet which could also be improved upon.
To be clear, the Steelers haven’t been ridiculously penalized during their first three preseason games, but it could still be an area the team should improve upon as the progress through the preseason and prepare for the Buffalo Bills in Week 1.
Before going any further, here is a total of accepted penalties the Steelers have had called on them throughout the first three preseason games. Obviously, penalties which were declined, are not included in the below totals, yet the infraction still occurred.
Preseason Game 1, vs. Dallas Cowboys: 3 accepted penalties, 43 total yards
Preseason Game 2, at Philadelphia Eagles: 5 accepted penalties, 40 yards total
Preseason Game 3, vs. Detroit Lions: 5 accepted penalties, 24 yards total
Are the above numbers ones which should sound the alarms and have people preparing for disaster? No, but, in my opinion, it isn’t so much about the total number, or yards, of penalties, but when and how they occur.
Take the game Saturday night vs. Detroit as an example. In the fourth quarter the Lions faced a 2nd and 30, when undrafted rookie Shakur Brown was flagged for defensive holding. The 5 yard holding penalty doesn’t look good on paper, but gave the Lions a new set of downs, and was a turning point in their 10 play, 77 yard touchdown drive which took over 6 minutes off the clock.
Same could be said for the roughing the passer call on Isaiahh Loudermilk which set up the Lions in scoring range at the end of the third quarter.
Before you suggest these are just backups, and shouldn’t be a concern, anyone else remember the first play from scrimmage? Chuks Okorafor jumping offsides on the first play immediately set the offense behind the chains. That one mistake completely alters the way Matt Canada approaches the offensive series, and also gets the team off their opening drive script.
Just one mistake, but a costly one, and I’m not talking about the 5-yard penalty.
The Steelers have the making of a very good team in 2021, but the one thing they can’t do is shoot themselves in the proverbial foot. We’ve all seen the defensive plays when a stop is made, only to see a flag on the ground, giving the offense new life. Likewise, the big run, think about Najee Harris’ plays which were negated in Philadelphia, only to come back due to a holding call.
It is the preseason, but there is a reason Mike Tomlin has been preaching discipline from his team the past three weeks. It isn’t all about the total number of penalties and yards, it is about when they occur. Just chalk this up as another area the Steelers can clean up as they prepare for the Carolina Panthers this Friday night to finish up the preseason, and prepare for the 2021 regular season.