Art Rooney II hopes refs change tack

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin took part in a conference call with other members of the NFL competition committee on Tuesday, and he surely relayed some of the uneasiness his boss has with the number of penalties that have been called in the preseason.

An analysis by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert earlier in the preseason showed that the number of penalties called has increased significantly -- a spike that can be attributed to the NFL's point of emphasis in calling illegal contact after the 5-yard zone in which defensive backs are allowed to disrupt passing routes as well as pass interference.

The number of flags thrown against defensive backs hasn't abated if the Steelers' 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday is any indication.

The Steelers were flagged six times for illegal contact or pass interference, and 13 total penalties were assessed against them.

"I think it's fair to say there's concern around the league about [the increase in penalties] and I think that the point has been made by the officials," Steelers president Art Rooney II told ESPN.com. "I hope we're going to get back to a more normal number of penalties per game."

The thinking is that the officials are calling illegal contact and pass interference more closely in the preseason to get players to adjust to it when the games don't count in the standings.

"I think that's been the history that you've seen things called in the preseason more than you've sometimes in the regular season when they've decided to make a point," Rooney said. "That's been the pattern that I've noticed in the past so we'll see if that holds true this year.

"I don't think anybody's trying to increase the number of penalties or the number of stoppages in games. It will go up and down depending on a game, but on the whole I think we need to hopefully get back to something that's more like we had last year in terms of number of penalties per game."

Tomlin said he has generally been pleased with how his defensive backs have adjusted to how the preseason games have been officiated.

"I really think they've done a great job of embracing the challenge that they're faced [regarding] the point of emphasis in [defensive contact] and really understanding it and showing the ability to move forward after negative things happen [when] flags [are] on the ground and so forth," Tomlin said. "But that's really a sign of maturity and you really have to acknowledge probably the leadership. Guys like Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu from that perspective."