The men with the black and white stripes invaded Saint Vincent College Thursday as the Pittsburgh Steelers decided it was time to add some officiating to their practices.
According to former Steelers offensive lineman and current radio network color man Tunch Ilkin, there was a lot of yellow laundry being thrown around on Chuck Noll Field Thursday and it wasn’t Terrible Towels.
“You saw the officials and you saw a lot of laundry on the grass,” said Ilkin after practice. “I was watching the coverage yesterday and I was thinking, man, the coverage is tight. Today, I don’t know how many flags were called on the secondary, but it was a boatload.”
According to a few Thursday media reports on Twitter, Steelers cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay weren’t too happy with a few of the calls that went against them during practice.
Last season, the Steelers defense was only flagged 32 times with nine of those calls being for defensive pass interference. This season, illegal contact and defensive holding will be watched more closely, according to Referee Ed Hochuli, who on Thursday explained the rule changes and points of emphasis for the upcoming season to the Green Bay Packers.
Contact with a receiver beyond the 5-yard bump zone with the QB in the pocket will be deemed illegal contact, with less leeway on the 5-yard zone than in the past. Even the slightest restriction that results from grabbing a receiver or his jersey is likely to be called defensive holding.
It’s good that the officials will likely be around quite a bit over the course of the next few weeks and it will be interesting to see how many flags fly during the preseason. It’s better to get an understanding of what’s likely to get called now instead of when the regular season starts.
What does Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin think about the referees being at Latrobe for Thursday’s practice?
“I like the refs,” said a grinning Tomlin.