The Cleveland Browns biggest AFC North rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are taking home-field advantage to a whole new level in 2021.
Home-field advantage is something that plays a big part in all sports, be it in football, basketball, or even hockey. Feeling the energy from your own crowd cheering you on, hyping you up with the big plays you make, can really get you going and be the difference you need to find an inch of separation between two quality teams. And one of the Cleveland Browns biggest rivals might have found a new way to get an advantage.
The Pittsburgh Steelers may have taken home-field advantage a bit too far on Sunday when they faced off with the Tennessee Titans. As seen in a viral tweet, the Steelers put up a black background on the jumbotron with their team logo when their kicker would kick a field goal, and leave up a video of the live game on the screen when the Titans would kick a field goal.
With the screen being located directly behind the endzone and goalposts, this meant that it was easier to see the uprights for the home team, and more confusing of a perspective for the visitor.
While this may seem like a mild thing, it comes close in the eyes of some to breaking NFL rules. In 2017, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were investigated for using their video board to distract Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano but were found to have no wrongdoings. The Buccaneers were putting yellow lines on the screen to imitate the goalposts, so kickers were seeing multiple uprights and being confused by it.
The Steelers were originally showing their logo when their kicker lined up, but would then change the screen to the live stream as soon as the kick was attempted.
This is very likely to avoid any sort of widespread criticism from other coaches around the league like Tampa Bay faced in 2017 from then-Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, among others.
While it isn’t an illegal thing to do according to the NFL rulebook, it certainly stretches the limit between being ethical and borderline bush league. With the Cleveland Browns having to make a visit to Pittsburgh in Week 17 on Monday Night Football, you can fully expect this same level of pettiness to still exist.
It will be up to kicker Chase McLaughlin to get out of his current slump and not let the attempted distraction mess him up should he be called upon to perform on that night.