The Dirtiest Team in The NFL…and It Isn’t Close

Football

To find the dirtiest team in the NFL we looked at personal foul data since 2020 and the Pittsburgh Steelers were the easy winner.

What causes an NFL team to be labeled as “dirty?” Usually it is attributed to dead ball foul or extra circular activity after a play or unsportsmanlike behavior (ex: Chuck Cecil) during a play.

Examples of dirty plays include unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the passer, taunting, defenseless receiver hits, or fighting.

Since the 2020 season, the Steelers have amassed 30 infractions – five more personal fouls than AFC North divisional rival the Baltimore Ravens.

While A.J. Brown is one of the league’s biggest offenders, the most-disruptive player is Seattle Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf, with 7 infractions.

According to the NFL, infractions of the rules are taken very seriously, so NFL teams risk being fined up to $500k for each violation that “affects the competitive aspects of the game”.

The Top Ten Dirtiest Teams in the NFL: 

 Rank   Team  Number of Infractions  Total Fines  Disruption %, Compared to League Avg (13) 
1  Pittsburgh Steelers  30  $5,342,533  150% higher 
2  Dallas Cowboys  25  $292,158  108% higher 
3  Las Vegas Raiders  21  $252,159  75% higher 
4  New Orleans Saints  21  $267,823  75% higher 
5  Denver Broncos  20  $208,481  67% higher 
6  Los Angeles Rams  17  $176,612  42% higher 
7  Cleveland Browns  16  $156,623  33% higher 
8  Seattle Seahawks  16  $155,023  33% higher 
9  Kansas City Chiefs  16  $168,079  33% higher 
10  Cincinnati Bengals  14  $141,876  17% higher 

Of all the teams in the league, the Steelers have been the dirtiest NFL team since 2020 in terms of penalties and amount of dollars fined, amassing a huge 30 infractions over three years – totaling a huge $5.3 million.

This is the highest volume of rule violations, with the league average standing at 13, and total amount of dollars fined.

The most common dirt offense committed by Pittstburgh Steelers’ players over this period was making obscene gestures – interestingly, all of which occurred during week 12 of the schedule each year – while unsportsmanlike conduct was second most.

Each of these violations have proven costly in the finance department for the team too. The 30 violations averaged $178,000+ per occurrence, when the total fines are divided over the number of infractions.

The least dirty team in the NFL (cleanest)? The Atlanta Falcons.

On the other end of the scale, the most well-behaved team in the NFL was crowned as the Atlanta Falcons, who have amassed only five dirty penalties since 2020. This is 83% less than the Pittsburgh Steelers, and 62% lower than the league average.

And despite seeing five player suspensions ahead of the 2023 season, the Detroit Lions sit below the league average in the ranking, amassing 12 infractions between 2020 and 2022.

Across the NFL, the most common infraction was unsportsmanlike conduct. This includes things like verbal abuse, taunting an official, or feigning an injury.

Other common issues included fighting, roughing the passer, and hits on defenseless players.

What NFL Position Is The Dirtiest?

Some positions are more prone to penalties than others, the data shows, with the majority of violations caused by wide receivers, followed by cornerbacks and defensive ends.

Who Is The Dirtiest Player In The NFL?

As well as looking at the dirtiest teams, we also looked at the players that commit dirty plays most frequently and incur infractions. The Seattle Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf was named the most fringe player in the league.

Metcalf amassed seven personal foul penalties between the 2020 and 2022 seasons. And if you’ve ever owned DK in fantasy football and watched his every possession carefully, it seems spot on that he would be the dirtiest players as he always seems to be pissed.