The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-2, but getting to .500 has been a battle. That battle has often been against the yellow flag, leaving Ben Roethlisberger with a mountain to climb. Pittsburgh is the most penalized team in the NFL, and it will derail the season if allowed to continue.
Pittsburgh currently averages 9.2 penalties per game, which is an increase of nearly three compared to last season. In a game where field position is everything, this is unacceptable.
Despite center Maurkice Pouncey's claim that "they're just small mental errors," it's now Week 6 and they don't seem to be coming to an end. These errors amount to 86.5 yards per game and, if unchecked, will result in the difference between the playoffs and anonymity.
The Tennessee Titans aren't having the best time this year, so this is the ideal time to concentrate on discipline in order to get to 3-2. The penalties conceded have thus far only amounted to 1.8 first downs per game—good for 18th in the league—but it won't remain that way for long (all penalty stats via TeamRankings.com).
Interestingly enough, the team could learn some restraint from James Harrison. Often looked upon as the scourge of the NFL, Harrison looks to be learning from his mistakes as he returns to the Steelers lineup.
Ed Bouchette reported for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette on an anomaly from last Sunday's last-gasp win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Harrison had a chance to sack Michael Vick, but instead checked himself and allowed Vick to make the pass:
"I was nervous," Harrison said of that second-quarter play, which resulted in a deep incomplete pass. "I thought he might duck his head, I might hit him. I can't take [a] fine. I was worried more about a fine.
"It's Michael Vick; he goes shake and bake. You have to sit there and wait almost just to see what he's going to do. Because if he at the last second drops his head and ducks down and we make helmet-to-helmet contact, it's the fault of the defender."
Matt Hasselbeck looks to be developing a connection with Jared Cook, so the last thing the Steelers need is to give him more yards and more opportunities to make a play. Despite this, Hasselbeck looks like he'll always give the defense a chance to make an interception.
At this rate, how many games will the Steelers lose through penalties?
The ground game isn't working for the Titans, so their main threat will come through the air. If the Steelers can keep the hits legal, then the yardage will dry up, and the game can be put out of reach.
In addition to this, the Titans rank 25th against the pass in terms of yards per game, so the less time the Steelers offense is on the field, the more difficult the task will be.
This game is one in which the Steelers are heavily favored, and it will be the biggest shock of their season—for both teams—if the Titans come out of it on top.
However, consistently being flagged will keep the opposition in the game. Then it can come down to one dumb decision to decide the game.
With the way the Steelers have been collecting flags this year, a one-possession game isn't something that would be welcomed.