Steelers See NFL’s Biggest Increase In Penalty Yardage From 2015 To 2016

Here is a statistic that may sting but will not come as a surprise. The Pittsburgh Steelers were flagged 152 times this season, tied for third most in the NFL. What may be a little more surprising is just how much more the Steelers were flagged in 2016 compared to 2015. According to a study by, the Steelers not only held the claim of biggest increase in penalty yardage from last season to this season but also had the biggest increase in the number of penalties itself.

Keeping in mind that this data includes all penalties called, not just the ones accepted, the Steelers were only flagged 110 times in 2015 but this season – 152 times. The additional 42 penalty calls also contributed to 332 more penalty yardage this year compared to last.

When information such as this is presented, the first reaction is to point a finger of guilt. But just who should the Steelers be pointing the finger of blame towards? Antonio Brown, for his touchdown celebration antics? Probably not, though Brown was flagged seven times this year, only five of those flags were accepted for a total of 55 yards. That is only one more penalty and 15 additional yards than Brown’s 2015 penalty rap sheet, making Brown a poor target of blame.

If not Brown, then who? Who else could be responsible for the Steelers ranking among the league’s worst in being penalized? The truth is, there was more than just one single player on the Steelers roster who was at fault for the team’s plunge into the depths of penalty hell.

Those two players are rookie corner Artie Burns and Pro Bowl offensive lineman David DeCastro. The two were flagged a combined 31 times over the course of the regular season and post season with each having 12 penalty calls accepted on their record. Those 12 penalty calls tied them for fourth most in the entire league for the year.

Burns’ 12 penalties called resulted in 128 penalty yards, giving Burns five more penalties called and 39 more yards than Antwon Blake had last year for the Steelers. The adjustment from college to the pros is a tough one, both physically and mentally and if Burns will not admit this, the penalty data will do it for him.

DeCastro’s attraction to more penalties is a head scratcher. The two-time Pro Bowl guard was penalized just three times all last season for just 15 yards. This season though, it seems that DeCastro was in the market for yellow flags, collecting 12 for 82 yards – a difference of 9 additional penalties and 67 extra yards.

The Steelers being the league’s worst in penalty difference from last season to this was in fact caused not by the antics of Brown or an undisciplined locker room. The Steelers’ penalty problems arise mainly from the uncharacteristic play from DeCastro and the result of a rookie corner adjusting to life in the NFL.

About the Author

Daniel Valente

Steelers fan from birth, spending majority of my free time looking up statistics. Had the honor of meeting Mike Vanderjagt shortly after his infamous missed field goal in the 2005 Divisional Round. Currently pursuing a Journalism degree. Follow me on Twitter @StatsGuyDaniel

  • blackandgoldBullion

    In general I don’t like to complain because some things will even out over the course of the year. Sometimes thy get some and sometimes they go the other way. I just get upset that Richard Sherman fouls the guy he guards every blessed play and gets away with it.

    If they called the game the same way the Steelers DBs would never get penalized. NFL can’t have it both ways.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    I can forgive burns for being a rookie on most. Decastro on the other hand was sloppy as hell.

  • falconsaftey43

    I think he benefits from the “do it every play, they’re not going to call it every play” mentality.

    Also, can anyone clear this up for me? Seems all WRs get mugged in the endzone. Luck shoved to the ground when ball isn’t even thrown. Almost always 5 yards beyond the LOS. Is there a separate rule for endzone (like if LOS is inside the 5, you can hit WR anywhere in the endzone?) or is it they just don’t call it in the endzone. Only when down close. Not on longer throws to the endzone do I notice this. Happens to many teams it seems.

  • WeWantDaTruth

    Of 2016 penalty yards the Steelers incurred, I’m curious how many were due to special teams penalties (block in the back, etc)? We had a TON of those this past year. As a result, I’m curious where the Steelers rank as far as starting field position. After all the special teams penalties they had, it seemed like the Steelers were also starting drives inside their 20.

  • PaeperCup

    I think they anticipate it going both ways, WR tugging on defenders. It’s almost like posting up under the hoop in basketball, a bit more physical contact there. Not that it’s ok, just accepted.

  • JB Burgess

    “Popcorn penalties, ignore them.” – Tomlin

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Yep, I’m hoping David had an excuse like injury or a newborn or something. Otherwise yikes!.

  • Charles Haines

    DeCastro got paid and went Woodley on us.