After the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, EDGE T.J. Watt complained the NFL has something against him due to the lack of holding calls that he’s drawn. Watt has drawn just one hold as a pass rusher, and another five coming as a run defender. The sentiment that the NFL isn’t calling holds is something that Dallas Cowboys EDGE Micah Parsons agreed with during a press conference today, claiming the league has an offensive-minded agenda.
“It’s comical. T.J., he’s good. It’s not something that we should call out anymore. We all see what is going on. The fans, the media, the reporters, they all see it. It’s just something they’re not making an emphasis on,” Parsons said. “They want teams to score a lot of points. At the end of the day, they want the fans to get excited, that’s what fans like,” Parsons added. “We just gotta learn and adapt in they world and we gotta get off blocks better,” Parsons told reporters today via the Cowboys’ YouTube channel.
Parsons acknowledged that he sees guys like Watt, Myles Garrett and Nick Bosa getting held the same way he feels he gets held.
Obviously, there isn’t going to be a flag on every play, so for defenders, it can almost be a strategy at times to just hold because it can’t be called every play. The fact that Watt has only drawn one hold as a pass-rusher is pretty crazy because he is getting held multiple times a game, every game.
But it’s also not just Watt. Pass-rushers across the league have to deal with holding seemingly as prevalent as ever but with fewer holding calls. While the NFL has trended more offensive recently, defenses have seen a bit of a resurgence this year. I don’t necessarily think it’s a directive by the league to reduce the amount of holding calls, but rather just the fact you can’t have a penalty on every play. What constitutes a holding penalty from just normal blocking can also vary from officiating crew to crew, so there isn’t a ton of consistency in what is viewed as a hold and how often holding gets called.
Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Teryl Austin compared the amount of times Watt gets held to Hack-A-Shaq yesterday, and that’s the best way to describe it. Guys know they can get away with holding more often than not, so it just makes sense to hold more often than not. A holding penalty is a better alternative than what can happen when Watt and these other elite pass rushers, like Parsons, can do when they get to the quarterback.
Now that Watt and Parsons have spoken publicly about it, we’ll see if the way the games are called ends up getting changed with more of an emphasis on holding. I wouldn’t “hold” my breath, though.