One of the biggest storylines for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year is actually one that goes far beyond the scope of just one team, and is one that all 32 will have to deal with over the course of the season. The NFL passed a number of very prominent rule changes over the course of the offseason this year, and it’s up to each team to figure out what that is going to mean on a practical level for them.
Whether it’s figuring out how the new configuration of the kickoff affects how they want to cover it or how they set up returns, or how they instruct or discipline their players in avoiding an illegal use of their helmet, or in conditioning players to ensure that they catch the ball in a certain way that makes it indisputable, these are questions that every team is facing right now.
And they are all looking at each other for the answers, according to Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who talked about how the preseason as a whole is something of an incubator for knowledge when it comes to figuring out how new rules are going to work themselves out.
“It goes beyond just the games and the stadiums that we’re in”, Tomlin said in response to a question about what he might have taken away from the team’s preseason opener regarding the significant changes that we have seen to the kickoff.
“It’s all the games. Right now I’m doing a good study on the 13 or so games from last week. In that area I think we’re all taking the same approach. Volume is good in terms of information gathering, so it includes the games outside the stadium that you’re in”.
At least on the surface, the Steelers didn’t seem to have much issue with the new rules. They are not penalized at all for an illegal use of the helmet, nor were their defensive players flagged under the more stringent rules against defensive holding, though their opponents were.
They didn’t seem to have a great deal of success on kickoffs, however, either in returning or covering them, so perhaps that is an area in which it would be wise for them in particular to seek out more information from what has taken place in the other preseason games that have been played so far.
It always seems as though the game of professional football changes ever so slowly year by year. I know that many others feel the same way, and find themselves much more frustrated with this evolution than I do. But I’m sure it’s no easier for the players and coaches who actually have to deal with the rules, rather than simply watch them be enforced.