The Rooney family and the Pittsburgh Steelers have frequently been on the forefront of progress (or at least change) in the name of the game of football, whether on or off the field, over the course of virtually their entire history. One area in which they have decidedly taken a reluctant back seat, however, has been in the movement to fast-track the expansion of the replay system, which seems inevitable regardless of the resistance from some owners.
As evidenced by the fact that there are five unique rule proposals being considered during the owners meetings next week that directly deal with the expansion of replay into penalties for the first time ever, it’s clear that forward momentum is well on its way toward implementing this idea, even if it comes in a limited form at first.
Said Art Rooney II yesterday, “I think our position in general on replay is we’re not really that excited to have replay expanded, and we’ll approach it with that in mind. We have a lot that is already reviewable in the game, and we’re not that excited about continually adding to that list”.
This is the Rooney way of saying this is a terrible idea and you’re terrible people for wanting to do it. I kid, of course, but the family has a history of being exceedingly diplomatic—after all, his father was literally a diplomat—and it’s clear that he feels more strongly about this than his mere words suggest.
Even he admitted, however, that “this year seems to be a little more attention being paid to” the expansion of replay, particularly with regards to the ability to have penalties be subject for review, which would be a very dynamic alteration.
A month or so ago, I can’t recall who but perhaps it was Rich McKay, the head of the Competition Committee, said that the NFC Championship Game helped to move the conversation along by a few years, meaning that he felt we are now where we would have been in the discussion a few years from now otherwise had that game not unfolded as it did. Of course, that involved a penalty that was not called, and most of the rule proposals don’t even touch the idea of non-penalties.
To his credit, Rooney’s concern is primarily pragmatic. ““First of all, I would not want to see the length of the game be expanded”, he said. “I think we need to continually try to go in the other direction, if anything try to shorten the game a little bit”, also adding that the pace of the game is an additional concern.
He also pointed out that the replay process itself is “another human being interpreting the play”—that is to say, also prone to getting the call wrong. And all of us have seen the replay review system get calls completely wrong.
It’s not foolproof, and never will be. However, I will always support any reasonable avenue that brings us closer to making the game as fair as possible by not having one team being negatively affected by simply incorrect officiating. In that, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Rooney, even if I share his concerns.