Pat Meyer Believes Team Has ‘Bullseye On Its Back’ With League-High Ineligible Downfield Penalties

Ineligible man downfield, five yard penalty, repeat the down.

A phrase now burned into the mind’s of Steelers’ fans. Pittsburgh has been called for a whopping five ineligible man downfield penalties this season and OL Coach Pat Meyer knows the Steelers are being watched every week.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Meyer discussed the repeated penalties.

“Obviously we have a bullseye on our back with that,” Meyer said via “We have to do something differently.”

Though one NFL assistant coach told me the league is cracking down on these type of penalties this year, there’s been no worse offender than the Steelers. They’ve been flagged for an ineligible man downfield five times this season, the most of any team. Nine teams haven’t been flagged at all while more than half the league have been called one or fewer times. For Pittsburgh, these calls have nearly become a weekly occurrence.

The most costly such call came in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns when RT Chukwuma Okorafor was flagged for it, wiping out a long shovel pass to RB Jaylen Warren that would’ve put the Steelers inside the red zone. It proved to be a turning point in the loss. After the game, OC Matt Canada said the team would run that play the exact same way again, a troubling sign that the team didn’t understand the league’s emphasis on the penalty. Halfway into the year and the Steelers lead the NFL in those calls.

But that play is far from the only example. RG James Daniels has seemingly been the biggest offender this season with multiple flags.

Most of these penalties have come on RPOs when the ball is being thrown. If it doesn’t come out quickly enough, linemen are more vulnerable to being called. They’re run blocking and working to the second level and if they’re not making contact with a defender past one yard, they’ll be flagged. Meyer said these penalties are less the fault of the line and more the fault of the scheme.

“We’re even slowing our combination down, trying to get to the linebackers quickly…when we’re downfield, we either need to get the ball out quickly or change up what we’re doing.”

He’s referring to the combination blocks that see linemen double-team the first level before moving to the second level. When linemen come off and climb, they run the risk of getting flagged and so slowing the climb to the next level reduces the risk of penalties. So long as linemen are engaged with a defender, they won’t be penalized.

Still, it’s a reoccurring issue for the Steelers and perhaps one reason why the team hasn’t run as many RPOs as they did last season. It’s one in a long list of issues for this offense. The only thing they’ve excelled at is hurting themselves and that’s certainly not the Steelers’ goal to right the ship and have an even semi-respectable offense.

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