Lost in the complaints about the malfunctioning of the Pittsburgh headsets on Thursday night was the fact that the Steelers also were complaining about New England’s use of a defensive line shift to induce a false start by the Pittsburgh offensive line inside the five.
On Sunday, as 14 teams were playing their Week One games, Patriots coach Bill Belichick discussed the technique with the media.
“We’re not trying to simulate anything,” Belichick said regarding the perception that the defense was simulating the snap count by sliding in unison. “We’re allowed to move on the defensive side of the ball and we’re allowed to move together. Like, we don’t have to move one at a time. If we move, then we make a call and we move. We’re not trying to simulate anything. We’re just trying to move the defense. That’s perfectly legal. Defenses have done that for, I don’t know, probably 75 years.”
That was apparently news to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who questioned the tactic after the game.
“I thought that there was a rule against that,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “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.”
The fact that the Steelers “saw it on film” makes the Steelers look a little foolish, frankly, for failing to figure out whether it was or wasn’t legal and for not being ready to deal with it when it happened.