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Penalties a growing issue for Steelers

| Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, 8:08 p.m.
Steelers defender Ryan Mundy kneels near Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin during third quarter action at Heinz Field Sunday, October 7, 2012. Mundy received a penalty on the play for helmet to helmet contact. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)

Coach Mike Tomlin coined the phrase “Don't hit the head, don't use the head” that is emphasized in a campaign by UPMC Sports Medicine and the Steelers to help reduce concussions in youth football.

Questions about hits to the head aren't one of Tomlin's favorite topics. At least they weren't Monday.

Tomlin grew testy when asked about his team's 106 yards in penalties Sunday against the Eagles.

“We're not going to dispute calls,” said Tomlin, who is aware that NFL coaches can be fined for any remarks deemed critical of game officials. “Those guys are doing the best they can, particularly in light of some of the instances that we have in today's NFL regarding player safety. We're trying our best to play within the rules, and it's disappointing for us when we don't.”

Tomlin added, “When you're picking up 30 yards in penalties on one drive, that's going to give people an opportunity to score. Obviously, we're trying to rectify those things.”

Asked if he had reviewed the penalty for Ryan Mundy's helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Jeremy Maclin, Tomlin said, “Guys, I'm not disputing these penalties in here with you. I'll do it in the proper manner with the people at the league office if I have a beef. I'm not going to do it in here. That's unprofessional as far as I'm concerned.”

The Steelers' numerous penalties are becoming a concern. They have more than double the penalty yardage of their opponents, 346-172, and their penalty yardage exceeds their rushing yardage (331).

Their league-leading average of 86.5 yards per game in penalties is far above their average of 53.4 a year ago.

The Packers are tops with 390 penalty yards, but they have played one more game and their per-game average (78 yards) is lower than Pittsburgh's. But the Steelers have drawn at least eight penalties in every game and have 29 (for 294 yards) in their last three games.

Willie Colon, still adjusting from the switch from tackle to guard, was flagged four times for holding Sunday, although one was declined.

“That has been an issue with Willie at times, in terms of over-aggression,” Tomlin said. “But I'd rather say ‘Whoa' than ‘Sic 'em.' ”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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