Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Penalties: An old bug-a-boo surfaced again

In Saturday night's loss to Baltimore, penalties hurt the Steelers as much as anything.

The eight penalties for 114 yards negated Antonio Brown's nine catches for 117 yards. You take away Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, and what do you have? A loss.

The penalties are an old-bug-a-boo that bit the Steelers badly early this season but had been mitigated for the most part over the second half of the season.

Unfortunately, the flag-fest on Saturday night brought to mind the early part of the season, when the Steelers committed penalty after penalty: Eleven penalties in the season opener vs. Cleveland; nine penalties in the second-game loss at Baltimore; a whopping 13 penalties against Tampa Bay on Sept. 28th; seven penalties vs. Jacksonville, including four on special teams; six bad penalties in the October blowout loss at Cleveland.

Following the loss to Tampa Bay, Mike Tomlin said, "We kicked our own butt today with penalties."

The same could be said about the playoff loss to the Ravens -- although penalties weren't the only reason the Steelers lost. Still, they were a big factor.

Watching some of the penalties committed on Saturday night -- particularly Jason Worild's punch to the (helmeted) head of Crockett Gilmore; David DeCastro's false start; Shamarko Thomas's hit out-of-bounds -- brought to mind Tomlin's words following the haunting loss to Tampa Bay:
"The bottom line is we are an undisciplined group," Tomlin said at the time. "We're too highly penalized. ... It's unacceptable; it's inexcusable. Some of the pre-snap penalties and post-snap penalties are just lack of discipline. It's ridiculous. False starts, encroachment. That we have full control over."
Apparently not. All those types of penalties came back into play at the worst possible time on Saturday night, either derailing Steelers' drives or giving new life to the Ravens.

It's something that should be a point of emphasis in training camp and throughout next season.

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