Mike Tomlin blasts officials for 'joke' penalties: 'I'm pissed about it'

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Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers won with relative ease Sunday.

But that didn’t stop him from unloading on officials. The Steelers coach delivered an uncharacteristic rant after Sunday’s 41-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons, blasting officials and the NFL for the way games are officiated.

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Mike Tomlin: ‘I’m pissed’

“We’ve gotta get better as a National Football League,” Tomlin said. “Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We’ve gotta get ’em correct. And so I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you. But that’s all I’m gonna say on it.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin couldn’t bite his tongue after a controversial roughing call on linebacker T.J. Watt. (AP)
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin couldn’t bite his tongue after a controversial roughing call on linebacker T.J. Watt. (AP)

Tomlin stopped short of calling out specific plays he was unhappy with, but clarified that his anger wasn’t about a pair of facemask penalties on linebacker Bud Dupree.

“Those looked like legitimate calls, we’ve got to be better there,” Tomlin said.

Roughing penalty likely on Tomlin’s mind

One of the likely culprits drawing Tomlin’s ire was a roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker T.J. Watt when he barely grazed Matt Ryan’s legs on a play that didn’t send the Falcons quarterback to the ground.

They penalty caught the attention of Houston Texans pass rusher and T.J.’s brother J.J. Watt, who was apparently watching from home ahead of his team’s Sunday night matchup with the Dallas Cowboys.


Tom Brady rule in effect

The penalty here is apparently applying the Tom Brady rule that prohibits defenders from lunging at a quarterback’s legs. It was implemented in 2009 after an ACL tear ended Brady’s 2008 season on a hit to his left knee.

But it’s tough see a flag on a play where the quarterback doesn’t even take a blow.

Watt: ‘Don’t know what else I can do’

Watt was more diplomatic and fine-cognizant about the penalty than Tomlin after the game, but made clear he and other defenders are perplexed at how to play with so many rules protecting quarterbacks.


“When I was falling, I tried – you’ll see on the film, at the end I tried to pull off,” Watt said. “When you have momentum like that, it’s very hard. I’ll take the penalty, it’s my bad. I’ll take the fine, whatever. I understand it.

“It puts us in a bind, ’cause I don’t know what else I can do. I couldn’t have rolled off. Then I risk hitting someone in the knees or hurting myself. It is what it is.”

Watt’s wasn’t the only penalty that recalled the Brady rule on Sunday. Philadelphia Eagles pass rusher Michael Bennett was flagged for hitting Kirk Cousins low on a sack that wasn’t particularly violent. Instead of facing a third-and-long with fewer than 30 seconds remaining in the half, the Minnesota Vikings were awarded a first down and ended up scoring a touchdown on the drive. Minnesota went on to a 23-21 win.

Tomlin can influence change

This is part of the game now. If you don’t like the roughing penalties, too bad. As long as the NFL prioritizes quarterback protection, this is an issue that will linger.

But Tomlin has the power to influence rule changes. He’s one of two coaches, along with Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints, who sits on the league’s competition committee.

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