Over the past two seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been assessed 212 penalties. Literally the definition of average, smack dab in the middle of the league. So on the whole, it doesn’t seem like that number is creating many problems for this team even if it isn’t a great place to be. But beneath the surface, there lies a serious problem.
The Steelers are notoriously “slow” starters when it comes to penalties. As in, they take a whole lot of them to begin the season. Since 2017, in the first month of the year, they’re first in the NFL with 79 flags. That’s a comfortable first place, if there is such a thing. Only two other teams even crack the 70s, Kansas City and Jacksonville, and each have exactly 70.
From game 5 to 16? Pittsburgh, almost inexplicably, has the second fewest infractions in football. Just 133 total, trailing only the Tennessee Titans.
So to put it in context.
Average Flags Per Game In Weeks 1 through 4 (2017-2018): 9.88
Average Flags Per Game In Weeks 5 through 16 (2017-2018): 5.5
Why the stark contrast? That’s the million dollar question. Clearly, coaching has fixed the obvious problem. Of course, coaching helped get the players into that mess in the beginning.
Regardless of the reason why, the Steelers can ill afford to have a repeat performance in 2019. Pittsburgh has a tough start of the season. At New England in Week One. We’ve seen that story play out before. The 2015 opener was a rough one. Then hosting Seattle the following game before traveling to a don’t-sleep-on-them 49ers bunch in Week 3. The four game stretch finishes with a Monday night meeting with Cincinnati, a game you don’t want to lose.
If the Steelers are penalized as often as they have been in recent years, they’ll – at best – begin the year 2-2. If it’s worse than that? Oh boy. Buckle up for a bumpy season.