The NFL changed lots of rules this season. It is unclear still how these rule changes have effected the overall performance of teams throughout the league and how those translate into wins or losses. There’s one current rule change that may be the reason why the Steelers defense has two 100+ yard rushers just four weeks into the season.
AFCN blogger on ESPN, Jamison Hensley, reports that Darren Woodson, during the Scott Van Pelt Show, threw onto the table a theory as to why the Steelers defense is struggling so much – the new practice rules. In the interview, Woodson says, ‘With having these limited practices, where you can’t put the pads on and be physical, I think it hurts a team that it’s within them to be physical. They’re (blue-collar) guys. They have to practice at a certain level for it to transfer on over.’
So what’s up with the new practice rules? Well quite simply teams are only allowed to practice in pads once per week for a total of 14 times total during the regular season. 11 of those padded practices must happen in the first 11 weeks. The idea is to have less wear and tear as the season gets down to the end. Teams are allowed to practice twice in pads only once during the regular season. Tomlin stated in his presser that the team would use that gimmie this week. Really , this rule only benefits teams that are not for contention of a playoff spot – why put yourself through the pain if it doesn’t matter. Let’s just gloss over the philosophical inconsistencies with an idea like that for now.
So what Woodson is referring to is the lack of physical practices is translating onto lack of physicality on the field during games. Honestly, Woodson could have hit the nail on the head with this one. It explains so much as to why the Steelers are getting blown off the ball time and time again. Why the linebackers are getting stuffed at the line. Why some players can’t tackle to save their life. The Steelers are built with guys who need the physicality in practice in order to be honed in for game day.
And let me tell you, if this is the reality of the situation, the Steelers are in for some tough times. That rule is part of the CBA, not some rule made up by the owners. In fact Rooney II said (without coming right out and saying it) that he doesn’t like that rule. Because it is part of the CBA, it will take some major ratifying in order to get rid of it. And what amount of players across the 32 teams will want to ditch this rule because the Steelers are struggling? Go ahead I’ll give you a moment to work that one out in your head…. yeah, you get my drift.
So it turns out the Steelers may not be old, slow and over. They are just a bunch of guys that need to punish themselves before they punish the opposing team – God, that makes me love being a Steelers fan. But, it sure makes things difficult for pulling out wins. I wonder how Tomlin, et al. will solve this problem?