It wasn’t just the headsets the Steelers had a problem with last night.
According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the Steelers were also angry about the Patriots’ tactic of shifting their defensive line en masse to try to draw a penalty — which worked during a disastrous goal-line sequence for Pittsburgh.
On third-and-goal from the Patriots’ 1-yard line, Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum was flagged for a false start after the shift, which quarterback Ben Roethlisberger immediately began to protest,
“I thought that there was a rule against that,” Roethlisberger said. “Maybe there’s not. Maybe it’s just an unwritten rule. . . . We saw it on film, that the Patriots do that. They shift and slide and do stuff on the goal line, knowing that it’s an itchy trigger finger-type down there.”
It’s a legal move so long as the Patriots don’t cross the line of scrimmage, which they didn’t appear to in this instance.
“They time it up in the cadence,” Steelers left guard Ramon Foster said. “Yeah, that’s one of the things they do. Welcome to Foxborough. . . .
“I think it’s more heightened because it’s [the Patriots] and it looks like – whatever the case may be. They’re a team that likes to take advantage of those type of situations, and we can’t give that to them.”
Foster nailed this one. As long as they’re not in the neutral zone, and they’re not calling out cadence themselves, it’s within the letter of the law. And when they’re in goal-line situations, it’s also a good bet for the Patriots, since a penalty against them would cost inches, while one against the offense costs 5 yards. It’s worth pushing the envelope there.
In many ways, it’s like their formation games against the Ravens in the playoffs last year, as their knowledge of the rules is apparently greater than their opponents’, giving them an advantage. In short, they know the rule book better than you do, so don’t complain.