Mike Tomlin: Penalties are 'a joke,' they're 'costing people games and jobs'

The Steelers lead the NFL in penalties, committing 49 in their first five games, including seven in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Falcons. And while many of those flags were of the self-inflicted variety -- including two hands-to-the-face penalties against Bud Dupree in Week 5 -- coach Mike Tomlin took issue with how the game was officiated against Atlanta.

"But some of the other stuff, man, is a joke," Tomlin told reporters. "We gotta get better as a National Football League. Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We gotta get 'em correct. And so I'm pissed about it, to be quite honest with you. But that's all I'm gonna say on it."

We'll say more. Tomlin, a member of the competition committee, was no doubt incensed by the roughing-the-passer penalty called on linebacker T.J. Watt. And he wasn't alone; J.J. Watt couldn't believe it either:

"I understand the rules. I'm not a dirty player," the younger Watt explained after the game, via ESPN.com. "I tried to pull off him at the end. Whether the ref saw it or not, I understand why they call it. It was a low hit. But I tried to pull my arms off. We'll see if I get a check in the mail or not. ... It puts us in a bind because I don't know what else I can do. I couldn't have rolled off, then I risk hitting someone in the knees or hurting myself."

Just ask Dolphins defensive end William Hayes, who tore his ACL in Week 3 while trying to sack Derek Carr within the new rules that make it almost impossible to bring down the quarterback without incurring a flag.

"He was trying to not put body weight on the quarterback, so his foot got caught in the ground," MIami coach Adam Gase explained at the time.

The league seems to have since loosened its interpretation of the limited scope of tackling the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, but clearly still not enough to Tomlin's liking. "You just have to be smart and understand the rules," Watt continued. "I'm not a guy who's going to make any real change from what I say. So I have to understand the rules and play by them."

Meanwhile, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports that the league has already been in touch with Tomlin about his comments and the coach could face a possible fine for criticizing the officials.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories