When it comes to supporting change in the way games are run, played, and officiated, the Pittsburgh Steelers are rarely on the frontlines. For many, this is a good thing. There is a very large segment of football fans who are tired of seeing rules tweaked year in and year out, some of which make the games take longer, others only seem to create more confusion than it solves.
With the latest owners meetings being held yesterday, once again, the Steelers were on the opposing side of yet another idea for innovating—or at least renovating—one aspect of the game: an alternative to the onside kick. While the proposal was tabled without a vote, and an informal straw poll suggested the owners would have been divided on it down the line, 16-16, Steelers president Art Rooney II made it very clear his team was on the opposing side.
“We really weren’t in favor of this one”, he said yesterday, via Bob Labriola. “I would say we’re open to thinking about whether there’s something we can do with the kickoff in a more traditional setting that might allow onside kicks to have a better chance of happening. But this one was just a little bit too much of a gimmick. Coach Tomlin and I just didn’t like the idea”.
Tomlin is also a member of the Competition Committee, which is the primary body that proposes and adopts the new rules. The vast majority of rules that do end up getting adopted come through the committee, rather than having been proposed directly by teams.
Both have gone on record in the past, for example, in expressing, at best, a hesitance toward adopting further expansions of the Instant Replay feature, though if I’m not mistaken, Tomlin was in favor of the pass interference rule that was passed last year and then completely and utterly botched by its in-season execution. That has left some gun-shy about other proposals.
“They would have to schedule a special meeting for it to come up, and it’s certainly possible that could happen”, Rooney said about the possibility of the onside kick alternative being revisited this year. “But there’s nothing on the schedule right now, and that’s why I said I would be skeptical about something getting passed for the 2020 season at this point”.
Over the course of the past two seasons, only a small handful of the other 100 onside kick attempts have been successful. Every single instance of a team attempting an onside kick resulted in that team losing the game.
The proposal was to allow a team to retain possession after a score, being given the ball on their own 25-yard line and a down-and-distance of fourth and 15. The XFL and the AAF both experimented with similar ideas, which is likely one of the main reasons the NFL considered it this year.