I’m not sure what kind of response this article is going to generate, but I have to say that I’m sorely disappointed to see the Pittsburgh Steelers generate not one, but two penalties on the defensive side of the ball as a result of unnecessary roughness penalties on defenseless receivers.
I am not disappointed because they were penalties that hurt the team—the first one in particular hurt because the ability to avoid the penalty would have resulted in the Browns being forced to punt after a third-and-18 pass short of the sticks that may not have been caught anyway—but because they were helmet hits to helmets, plays that simply should have been avoided.
The first hit came from veteran William Gay, who is now in his 11th season in the league, and 10th with the Steelers. He is not a player with a history of this sort of play, and leads me to be inclined to view this as a one-off incident for him rather than a pattern of behavior.
The second one, however, came from safety J.J. Wilcox, whom the team just traded for after the final roster cuts were made. He received seemingly a couple of drives’ worth of playing time rotating in for Mike Mitchell, who is coming off a hamstring injury that forced him to miss all of the preseason.
I don’t know a lot about Wilcox, but I do know that he is a big hitter. He has had at least two unnecessary roughness penalties and one personal foul penalties in his career that I can quickly find in a Google search prior to today’s game.
The Steelers tend to have a reputation even today among other fan bases—and even among some other teams—for playing dirty, and these types of plays do not help with that perception. Ironically, Mitchell has been a primary target of such criticism—from the Bengals—and yet has been one of the players who have figured out how to alter their style to avoid such penalties.
In addition to the aforementioned helmet-to-helmet hits, Ryan Shazier and T.J. Watt were each docked 15-yard penalties for unnecessary roughness on late hits to rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. Shazier hit the rookie hard after going in for a slide after a scramble. Watt’s penalty came after a sack, though the latter call seemed somewhat weak on my initial impression and is something I will have to look at again.
I am sure that many will be of the opinion that this is indicative to decay of the game of football and that this is a sign of the end of the game as we know it now that people can’t smash their heads together in every context.
But the bottom line is that the Steelers are not showing the ability to play smart. Four unnecessary roughness penalties on the defense in one day is a terrible display, and one that needs to be cleaned up very quickly.