Whenever Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin speaks in public, articles get written about what he has to say. Sometimes they draw in a lot of traffic, especially when he says that he doesn’t like touchdown celebrations when he coaches the team that leads the league in celebration choreography.
But to me perhaps the most interesting thing that he said during the weekend at the Annual League Meeting was evidently something that he said in private, and it concerned the aborted rule proposal to turn the defensive pass interference penalty into a 15-yard infraction rather than a spot foul.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that defensive-minded coaches prefer that it be a spot foul since it would prevent 50-yard penalties from happening, and Tomlin’s coaching background has primarily been on the defensive side of the ball.
Apparently he wasn’t a fan of it, and not because the Steelers actually saw more of a net benefit from the rule as it is than any other team in the league. According to Chris Mortenson, it is because he believes defenses will use it too much to their advantage.
Said during NFL Live a few days ago, Adam Schefter explained that the rule proposal was pulled because it did not have the backing of the committee primarily responsible for orchestrating rule changes, on which Tomlin serves. “It just never gained any type of support amongst the Competition Committee”, Schefter said. It was not going to ever pass, and because it wasn’t going to pass, the Jets just simply withdrew it”.
Mortenson went into more detail. “There were defensive coaches” who were against it”, noting “Mike Tomlin of the Steelers—a head coach, but the guy’s got a defensive background, and a secondary background—who made the case inside their meetings that this is not going to work because defensive backs and coaches are too savvy, and this game would turn into a mockery in [defensive coaches’] belie”.
This is an argument that a lot of people were bringing up during my question posed several days ago about which rule changes you would like to see. Personally, I have mixed feelings about the idea, but there are clear pros and cons to changing it.
One can easily see how defenses might manipulate its usage, or more specifically defenders who have been beaten over the top. If they are targeted on a vertical pass, then it would be more beneficial for them to simply tackle the target than it had been before.
Said Tomlin himself about the defensive pass interference penalty, he said that he is “against it. I like the rule the way it is. There are dire consequences in our game sometimes for mistakes, and obviously that’s one of them, but appropriately so”.
He added, “I think our fans enjoy the splash plays, the big plays, the game-changing plays, and I think you lessen the potential for that when you put a 15-yard cap on the penalty for those types of violations”.