At one point earlier this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to boast the distinction of holding the title of least-penalized team in the league. Through 10 weeks now, they are still very close to that mark, now ranking second, behind only the Minnesota Vikings, who hold the current distinction.
Through 10 games, the Steelers have been penalized a total of 58 times, an average of a little under six penalties per game. the Vikings are just under Pittsburgh in that category, having been flagged 56 times in 10 games. Only three teams have been penalized less than 60 times, with the Jets sitting at 59 penalties.
The Steelers had an off year in terms of disciplined play a year ago. They ranked just 13th in terms of the least penalized teams in 2014, receiving 103 flags on the year, which works out to an average of roughing 6.4 flags per game. currently, Pittsburgh is on pace to cut its cumulative total of penalties down by 10, to 93 for the 2015 season.
Back to current statistics, however, the Steelers have made substantial improvement in terms of their discipline of play this year, particularly with respect to flags drawn in the defensive backfield, which was a major problem last year. The personnel being different this year no doubt has had an influence on that.
Of particular fondness no doubt fore Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is the fact that the team has had the third-fewest pre-snap penalties this year, with just 18, behind the Chiefs and Patriots. A number of these have been on their replacement offensive linemen, to be fair.
The Steelers have also experienced the third-fewest total flags. With four offsetting flags and eight declined, they have had a total of 70 flags thrown their way, just three behind the Vikings and two behind the Jets.
With respect to accepted penalties, the Steelers are unsurprisingly being flagged with greater frequency on the road. In four home games, they have been penalized 21 times, an average of 5.25 times per game. In six road games, they have accumulated 37 penalties, an average of 6.2 penalties per game.
The latter statistic should be of some note considering that four of the team’s six remaining games take place on the road, starting with a game in Seattle, known for being among the more difficult places for visiting teams to play. Yet, when they played in Kansas City, they were penalized just once for five yards.
If you go deeper into the statistics, you will find that the Steelers, with a total of 1391 offensive, defensive, and special teams plays, average a penalty roughly once every 25 snaps in a game, an average that works out to the third-most efficient in the league, behind, again, the Vikings and Jets.
Pittsburgh’s ability to clean up some of their infraction issues that crept into their performance the last few seasons is a narrative in their improvement that should not be ignored. Their ability to keep from hurting themselves has been key to wading through a lot of adversity this year.