PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin’s response to addressing the penalties that have plagued the Steelers through the first quarter of the season is to have referees at practice this week -- and to put players on notice that if they can’t celebrate within the confines of the rules they won’t celebrate at all.
The Steelers were penalized 13 times for 125 yards in a 27-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. Six of the penalties were 15-yard ones. The Steelers were flagged twice for unsportsmanlike conduct and once for taunting.
Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown drew an unsportsmanlike penalty after falling to the ground in celebration following an 11-yard touchdown catch near the end of the first quarter.
“The bottom line is scoring has got to become routine for him,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “He’s got to hand the ball to the official and come over to the sideline and get ready to do it again.”
Tomlin, however said, he has not banned players from celebrating after a big play as long as they are able to police themselves.
“I’m not trying to take the genuine emotions and excitement of the game away from our guys,” the eighth-year coach. “That’s not me and that’s not the right thing to do. But I will ask them to do it within the guidelines of the rules and if they can’t do that consistently then yes [no celebrating] will be a mandate.”
One penalty that Tomlin did not have a problem with last Sunday was when defensive end Cameron Heyward complained to officials after Doug Martin’s 3-yard touchdown run. Linebacker Sean Spence appeared to get held during the play and Heyward was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after voicing his displeasure following the missed call.
The play happened on the sideline opposite the Steelers at Heinz Field.
“Everybody in the stadium thought there was a holding on the play but it wasn’t called. That’s understandable,” Tomlin said of Heyward’s reaction. “If I had been on that side of the field they probably would have penalized me. Some of the other [penalties] we have to channel our enthusiasm and energy in a more positive way.”
The Steelers have been penalized 44 times -- only the San Francisco 49ers have been flagged more -- and Tomlin said there hasn’t been any “egregious offenders” when it comes to incurring penalties.
He is hoping that having referees at practice will translate into the Steelers reducing their penalties Sunday when they visit the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I understand that penalties are a part of football,” Tomlin said, “but the ones that really get me going are the pre-snap penalties because that’s concentration, that’s detail, that’s cohesion, that’s game readiness, and we've had too many of those really in all three phases.”