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NFL audio mandate limits use of no-huddle offense

| Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 10:18 p.m.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin cheers on the defense after they held the Lions to a field goal in the second quarter Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin cheers on the defense after they held the Lions to a field goal in the second quarter Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, at Heinz Field.

More no-huddle.

Emmanuel Sanders wouldn't object to it, and neither would Antonio Brown. Heath Miller believes it can be sustained over an entire game week after week, and of course, Ben Roethlisberger has been a backer of it for years.

Even guard Ramon Foster doesn't mind it.

So why haven't the Steelers employed the no-huddle more than 16 percent of the time, as they have through 10 games, even though it has been quite successful?

“There are audio things to be concerned about, quite frankly,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

Yes, really.

Ben Roethlisberger has completed 57 percent of his passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns with a 93.0 passer rating out of the no-huddle, which included 47 percent of last week's plays against Detroit, and it could be put on the shelf for Sunday's game against Cleveland because of a rule that was put in place a couple of years ago.

The NFL mandated that either the center or both guards would be miked up to greater enhance the TV viewing experience. The on-field microphone position was switched when the league moved the umpire from the defensive to the offensive side of the ball to improve safety.

While it has proved to be good for the viewer, it's not very forgiving to the no-huddle offense.

“They can go back and look at the TV copy and hear a word and match that with a play, and they have our game plan,” Sanders said.

It happened against the Lions.

Roethlisberger said late during last week's game that when he made his call at the line of scrimmage in the no-huddle, the Lions quickly called out that it was going to be a run play.

“It can be tricky if you use it too much,” Roethlisberger said. “At times, you start to run out of calls.”

Roethlisberger can either verbalize the call at the line of scrimmage or use hand signals. Where the issue comes in is when teams go through the TV version of the film of the opponent and pick up the calls heading into the game.

Roethlisberger said he tries to gain an advantage by watching network telecasts before games.

Microphones are turned on when a team breaks huddle and shut off a beat after initial contact when the ball is snapped. For a no-huddle offense, the microphone opens as the quarterback approaches the line of scrimmage.

Roethlisberger said he gets the help of backup quarterback Landry Jones watching the network broadcasts in preparing for the opponent in order to try to pick out something.

“We all watch it to see if there is something we can pick up and help us,” Roethlisberger said.

The Steelers have used the no-huddle sparingly and didn't use it in wins over the Jets and Ravens. But when they do, it's been highly effective. Against the Patriots, Roethlisberger was 16 of 29 for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Against the Lions, he was 14 of 24 for 236 yards and two scores.

“It has given us a lot of success,” Sanders said. “I always say that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Right now, I feel like in the no-huddle or up-tempo offense, we put up a lot of points. Hopefully we can continue to maintain this and get better and make it a key ingredient for us.”

But …

“The thing about the National Football League is that you have to mix it up,” Sanders said. “Once you do things too much, guys catch onto it and then you have to switch it up.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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