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Film Room: Special Teams Hurting Itself With Penalties

There is no team in the NFL that is even close to flawless. Even the New England Patriots are 1-2 right now. The Pittsburgh Steelers are certainly far from perfect, but if there is one thing that they have control over, it’s playing with more discipline, which has especially been an issue on special teams.

It started on the first play of the game, with Jordan Dangerfield flagged for holding on a 31-yard return by Ryan Switzer that was wiped out. On this particular occasion, it was a clear and obvious hold that had a direct impact on the play. Had he not committed the foul, Switzer would have had a hard time getting to the edge.

Incredibly, the Steelers had two penalties during the game for unnecessary roughness on extra point tries. Some thought that these were penalties regarding the new rule that requires defenders to line up completely outside of the long snapper’s shoulder pads, but that was not the issue.

First Daniel McCullers, then Cameron Heyward, committed the same infraction of running into the long snapper and hitting him in the head and neck area. This is a rule that is already on the books but is a point of emphasis this season. Both instances involve a knee or leg to the long snapper’s helmet.

The one unit that has really performed pretty consistently well so far this year has been the kick coverage. That looked to be continuing on Monday, with Nat Berhe recording a tackle on the 15-yard line, but he did so by grabbing the returner’s facemask for a 15-yard penalty.

The final penalty was some source of controversy—at least for us—as Darrius Heyward-Bey was flagged for an illegal shift on a punt. While he was still dropping into his set at the snap, he appeared to be stationary.

Problem is, he still had control over what would happen next. It spoiled a great punt, but he continued to argue with the officials to draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on top of it, the ensuing punt going for a touchback, which ultimately cost the Steelers 19 yards of field position.

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