For the first half of the season, penalties were one of the most glaring problems for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Offense, defense, special teams, especially special teams, yellow flags flew plenty. Over that span, not only were they far and away the league leader in penalties but on track to nearly set a franchise record.
And then, like a light switch, they turned off. Not only has Pittsburgh cleaned things up, they’re the least penalized team over the back half of the season. Here are the numbers from each timeframe:
First Eight Games: 74 penalties (9.2 per game) – Most in NFL
Last Seven Games: 28 penalties (4 per game) – Least in NFL
That’s even including the penalty happy officiating from the New Orleans Saints loss when at least one call – Joe Haden’s pass interference – was an objectively terrible call.
Pittsburgh is now ranked 20th overall in penalties for 2018, 102 in total.
No, it hasn’t necessarily helped the Steelers get back to their winning ways but it’s nonetheless a positive development. The Steelers offense is now one of the league’s least penalized teams, just 35 times this season, third fewest in the league trailing only the Detroit Lions and LA Rams. The defense’s numbers still aren’t great but improved, tied 9th. Special teams is still a sore spot, remaining the most in the league with 25.
Not every team has done so well to correct those issues too. The Kansas City Chiefs were neck and neck with Pittsburgh during the beginning of the year. KC is still by far the most penalized team in football, 133, nearly 20 more than any other club. So it isn’t simply the Steelers regressing to the mean like everyone else. To their credit, they’ve actively fixed the problem.
If you’re wondering, the Cincinnati Bengals are 15th this year in penalties with 105. The plurality of them have come on the offensive side of the ball, flagged 54 times, the sixth most this season. Pittsburgh was penalized three more times than Cincinnati in the first matchup, nine to six, with nearly double the penalty yards.