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Mike Tomlin discusses Steelers’ slew of penalties in Week 7, learning tenor of an officiating crew

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) walks on the field during an officials review in the fourth quarter of an NFL regular season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams on October 22, 2023, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter Week 8 with a 4-2 record sitting just half a game back from the lead in the AFC North. Ahead of their next game against the 4-2 Jacksonville Jaguars, HC Mike Tomlin addressed the media, spending some time discussing their Week 7 victory over the LA Rams, addressing at length the number of costly penalties.

Pittsburgh incurred eight total penalties on the day for 76 yards. Two of the most head-scratching ones came from WRs Diontae Johnson and George Pickens, who each were flagged for taunting — a flag that’s worth a loss of 15 yards. Pickens also was flagged for an illegal blindside block, accounting for another 15-yard loss. For those keeping track, that’s 45 yards lost over the course of just three plays, on flags that can arguably be considered indications of a lack of team discipline.

“Oftentimes, it's our job to feel the tenor of a[n officiating] crew and adjust our behavior accordingly. We got into that game, and that crew had a certain tenor, and we didn’t adjust to it. As professionals, that’s our job. Am I worried about those issues being an issue moving forward? No, I’m not, but it is a great opportunity to talk about learning the tenor of a crew. Sometimes, certain crews are more tolerant regarding certain things than others, and that’s just the realities of the National Football League.”

“T.J. [Watt], for example, got a penalty for lining up in the neutral zone at a significant time in the second half of that game. It was a third-down possession that we won. A lot of [officiating] crews will warn you when someone’s lined up in the neutral zone or cutting it close from that perspective. Some don’t. It’s our job to get a sense of how the game was being played that day, from a holding perspective, from a DPI perspective. There are a lot of things you can discuss for having the feel for the tenor of a crew. The worst thing we did in that game was we didn’t have a sense of that tenor, and we didn’t adjust.”

“Najee [Harris] had a confrontation post-snap, early in the game, where he was jarring back and forth with a member of [the Rams’] defense, and that crew expressed their tenor at that time, and as a collective, we didn’t do a good enough job. I didn’t do a good enough job as a leader making sure we adjusted, and so that’s why some of the penalties were as they were. It’s a good lesson for us moving forward, and as I mentioned, it’s good to learn lessons as you win,” Tomlin closed out by saying.

Tomlin’s insight offered an interesting aspect of coaching not often considered by the general public, especially as inconsistencies among NFL officiating crews continue to be a hot topic among NFL analysts and football fans alike.