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Penalties ‘Catastrophic’ to Steelers Defensive Effort



Steelers Titans
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith tackles Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis on Nov. 2, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — For the second straight week, penalties were a big part of the story for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But after some controversial calls in the team’s Week 8 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars caused some ire to be directed toward the officiating, the focus is inward this week.

The Steelers were penalized 10 times for 80 yards in Thursday’s win over the Tennessee Titans, and instead of complaining about the calls, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin called out his team’s lack of discipline.

“From a penalty perspective, part of being a tough team to beat is not kicking your own butt, and we kind of have been doing that some, and we have to own that,” Tomlin said. “So we will. We’ll review it. We’ll learn from it. We’ll look at it.”

Of the team’s eight accepted penalties, five were on defense and were all crucial. The Steelers were penalized four times on the first Tennessee drive, basically singlehandedly gifting the Titans a field goal on a drive where they gained only one first down on their own accord.

Then after Kenny Pickett hit Diontae Johnson for a go-ahead touchdown with 4:06 to play, two more penalties reared their ugly heads to put the finish of the game in doubt until the end. 
Broderick Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on the extra point attempt, letting the Titans start their first comeback attempt drive at the Steelers 47.

After the Steelers defense held on that possession, the offense punted the ball back and the Titans had a 4th and 7 at their own 30. Will Levis’ pass fell incomplete, but Joey Porter Jr. was flagged for holding — his third penalty of the game.

Instead of being able to kneel out the last 53 seconds calmly, the Steelers had to sweat out the end, with Levis taking the Titans all the way to the Pittsburgh 19 before throwing an interception to Kwon Alexander to seal the game.

Six of the 10 accepted penalties and 50 of the 80 yards came on defense, and directly led to at least three points for the Titans.

Furthermore, half of the penalties were called against rookies, suggesting that some teaching might be in order. Tomlin said that the team will have officials working at practice this week.

“We’ll bring some officials into our practice setting in an effort to be cleaner because that was catastrophic really, in a lot of instances, to our effort,” Tomlin said.

On the whole, penalties have not been a big problem for the Steelers. They’ve had 46 penalties called against them this season, tied for 20th-most in the league. But they’ve loomed large in each of the last two game.


Broderick Jones, ineligible man downfield, 5 yards
T.J. Watt, roughing the passer, 15 yards
Patrick Peterson, illegal contact, 5 yards and a first down
Joey Porter Jr., face mask, 15 yards
Joey Porter Jr., illegal use of hands, 5 yards and a first down
Kenny Pickett, too many men, 5 yards
Patrick Peterson, illegal contact, 5 yards and a first down
James Daniels, false start, 5 yards
Broderick Jones, unsportsmanlike conduct, 15 yards
Joey Porter Jr., holding, 5 yards and a first down