It doesn’t appear as though there are many people who are happy with the way the NFL is policing games this season, most especially when it comes to penalties concerning contact with the quarterback. The Pittsburgh Steelers earned two flags in such circumstances today, and Head Coach Mike Tomlin was not pleased after the game.
While he acknowledged that some of the infractions his team received on the day were legitimate, he said, “some of the other stuff, man, is a joke. We gotta get better as a National Football League. Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We gotta get ‘em correct. So I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you”.
Tomlin no longer holding back on penalty criticism: “Some of the other stuff, man, is a joke. We gotta get better as a National Football League. Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We gotta get ‘em correct. So I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you.”
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 7, 2018
It’s worth noting that Tomlin is on the Competition Committee, which is responsible for making decisions that pertain to how rules are enforced. Roughing the passer penalties did subside after a Week Three conference call on the committee, but they still happen.
The big question for the Steelers came early in the second quarter when outside linebacker T.J. Watt was flagged for roughing the passer, which added 15 yards on top of a seven-yard completion that put the Atlanta Falcons at the Steelers’ 26-yard line. The defense would ultimately go on to hold them to a field goal.
It was a second-and-11 play, and Watt didn’t seem to make obviously intentional contact with Matt Ryan. While I must wait for NFL GamePass to put the game up to get a better look at it, it certainly seemed as though he made only incidental contact with Ryan’s knee when he saw that the ball was already out.
Jon Bostic was flagged later in the game in the third quarter, not for rougher the passer, but for unnecessary roughness, following a sack that he split with Cameron Heyward. After the whistle had been blown, he lurched Ryan back to the ground, drawing the flag.
The bottom line is that the only way forward to correct the problem is to make roughing penalties reviewable, which is something that the NFL has been very reluctant to do for a long time. While fans nag and moan whenever a challenge flag is thrown, they don’t complain when their team gets an important call overturned.