Opponents of the league’s new rules of emphasis regarding bringing the quarterback down this season have championed the comments of player regarding the subject. They have been particularly quick to jump on any remark that indicated a player changing what he might ordinarily have done on a play that he ended up not making because he was giving consideration to avoiding a penalty.
The latest example of that was when Kansas City Chiefs rookie linebacker Breeland Speaks said after his team lost to the New England Patriots that he was worried about possibly committing an infraction when he failed to bring down quarterback Tom Brady, who would then scramble for a four-yard touchdown.
It is a complicated ordeal, admittedly. Though it should be less complicated for a rookie who has never previously been officiated at the NFL level by a different standard. Be that as it may, the post-incident message has been clear. “You gotta play, free mind”, Troy Vincent said regarding Speaks’ comments.
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter had the same message for his own players, who have already registered a couple of roughing the passer penalties.
“You don’t want to be in that situation where you have that guy and you’re scared to tackle him and then you let him go and he gets a touchdown”, the former Steelers outside linebacker turned Steelers coach told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette veteran reporter Ed Bouchette after practice.
“That ain’t never going to be fun”, he went on in his comments. “You’re going to be [on] a highlight reel of them making an excuse like, ‘oh, look, that’s why he didn’t get him’. No, he had a chance to tackle him and he didn’t tackle him. You have to go ahead and bring him down”.
The Steelers have successfully brought down the quarterback in legal fashion more than any other team this season outside of the Baltimore Ravens, who just had 11 on Sunday. So obviously they have been doing a pretty good job of playing cleanly overall, despite the hand-wringing about how difficult it has become to sack quarterbacks.
“If you have a chance to tackle him, then you have to make that tackle”, Porter added. “And it’s tough to say just deal with what happens afterward, but that’s what you can do”.
It’s worth pointing out that Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has previously said that he has always instructed his players to play within the current rules, so he didn’t have to change anything about the way he coached this year. There are no new rules on the books, merely old rules actually being enforced.
While Porter lamented the penalty and fine that T.J. Watt recently received, he said, “that’s out of our control. We can’t control that play, we can’t control the plays that are going to happen into the future. But we can control how hard we play and his intent when he’s going for the play”.