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Taunting is just the latest NFL rule that could ruin a Steelers game for absolutely no reason

Taunting is one of the points of emphasis for NFL officials in 2021, but it probably shouldn’t be.

Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Football is a rough and physical sport that includes big athletes often doing really mean things to one another during the course of an average game.

In fact, I believe that could be the job description of your typical football player. Football is such a physical sport, these players have been known to do really weird things to psyche themselves up before games. They paint their faces. They let out guttural screams as they run through tunnels. They headbutt their teammates. They dent their lockers. They expose their abs. They find players on the opposite team and let them know it’s going to be a long day for them.

Simply put: they become different people.

Even the nicest guys off the field can turn into absolute animals on it—I believe Troy Polamalu would fit that description.

Just how far have some players gone to get themselves ready for the physical rigors of an NFL game? Just watch this clip of former Jaguars defensive lineman John Henderson asking the team trainer to repeatedly slap him in the face before running out onto the field to do battle.

Henderson seemed to really enjoy the one slap that drew blood.

Anyway, football players are big, tough and scary. They’re human beings, sure, but they’re trained to endure a lot of physical punishment.

So, why are they suddenly ill-equipped to put up with mean and/or disrespectful gestures during games? That’s right, the NFL, the league that can never truly get out of its own way for five minutes, is emphasizing yet another rule that just looks ridiculous to the naked eye and is putting the integrity of its own product in jeopardy.

I’m talking about taunting. The NFL just won’t allow it in 2021. Why? I do not know, but it got in the way of a lot of games in Week 2. Players around the NFL were penalized 15 yards for spinning footballs after catches, flexing muscles after pass breakups and, I’m sure, pointing fingers in a menacing fashion.

Again, I must ask what brought about this point of emphasis when the competition committee met this past offseason? Do they take bets every other spring on how to ruin games in convoluted ways?

I still don’t understand why the NFL spent many years forcing receivers to practically take a football home with them in order to complete a catch, but the Catch Rule sure did ruin many games.

As for that pass interference replay fiasco of 2019? At least the league’s heart was in the right place; coming on the heels of the very egregious non-penalty at the end of the 2018 NFC title game, exposing pass interference calls (or non-calls) to the replay review system seemed like a good idea in theory. In application, however? Not so much.

Thankfully, the NFL quickly realized it was a horrible idea and scrapped it well before the 2019 campaign came to a close (but not before possibly screwing the Steelers out of an early-season win in the process).

You’d think the league would have learned a valuable lesson from the pass interference thing or certainly the Catch Rule.

And if the NFL didn’t learn from those examples, it should go back and examine the twerking era of 2016 when players were penalized for, well, twerking and other such celebrations that didn’t have anything to do with playing an actual game but still could have ruined one.

But, nope.

Has taunting ever really been a major issue for the NFL? Has it caused fights in the past? Sure, but football has also caused a lot of fights over the years. It’s football; again, that’s almost the job.

This might be a dumb question to ask because I know how many feel about this sort of thing, but do fans even care when they see taunting during an NFL game? Isn’t taunting in the eye of the beholder, anyway? I know a lot of people who consider touchdown celebrations to be a form of taunting (at least my mom does when she sees a Steelers’ opponent perform one).

Many call the NFL the No Fun League, but that’s partly the fans' fault for often bemoaning the fact that these celebrations take place and saying things like, “Act like you’ve been there before.” In fact, if Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, in many ways, the godfather of the modern touchdown celebration, were playing today, his name would be Billy “Diva” “Cancer” “Toxic” “Selfish” “POS” “White Shoes” Johnson.

Even if you truly despise touchdown celebrations and taunting, do you want them to interfere with the outcome of a game? Do you want to be Tweeting #MuthDidn’tTauntHim years after some taunting call leads to a Steelers’ loss and hurts their championship aspirations?

I know I don’t.

Of all the people who shouldn’t want that, those in charge of the National Football League should be at the top of the list.

Is taunting really that big a deal, NFL? It’s not too late to rethink your curious emphasis on it in 2021.