In the aftermath of Thursday night’s opener, it was open season for the Steelers against the Patriots, with criticism of Pittsburgh’s inexplicable failure to cover tight end Rob Gronkowski (apparently, the secret sauce was to not put a man on him at all in the hopes of confusing Tom Brady) replaced by criticism of the coach-to-coach system at Gillette Stadium.
Coach Mike Tomlin, who while pacing the field during pregame warmups seemed ready to rumble, was clearly angry after the game when talking about the problems with the communications system. While he tried to measure his words carefully, the team’s website didn’t, painting a picture of coincidental outages and restorations as league officials explored the situation.
“This is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time,” the Steelers’ website declared.
Here’s the problem with Pittsburgh’s approach: The NFL’s Constitution and Bylaws prohibit teams from airing out dirty laundry regarding other teams. Specifically, Article IX, Section 9.1(C)(4) provides that teams may not “[p]ublicly criticize any member club or its management, personnel, employees, or coaches and/or any football official employed by the League. All complaints or criticism in respect to the foregoing shall be made to the Commissioner only and shall not be publicized directly or indirectly.”
The league office probably wants all of this to go away quickly, and publicly chasing the Steelers for publicly chastising the Patriots serves only to prolong the story.
Still, the league would be wise at a minimum to circulate a memo reminding all teams of Section 9.1(C)(4). Otherwise, every coach who loses to the Patriots this year will be tempted to blame the outcome not on something the coach or his team failed to do but on something the Patriots supposedly did that violated the rules.