Competition Committee To Discuss QB Sneaks Next Month; Some ‘Anticipate More Offensive Players Springing From It’

Quarterback sneaks have become a topic of discussion around the football world over the course of the past several months. It’s no surprise given how dramatic the uptick in its usage had become. The Pittsburgh Steelers were a part of that, having previously been famously on the other side, basically never sneaking at all in the latter stages of Ben Roethlisberger’s career.

With the recent proliferation of the use of ‘pushers’ to help move the quarterback forward in short-yardage situations, there has been much debate about whether or not the NFL will outlaw the ‘rugby scrum’ sneak. Yet the odds of the league making something harder for an offense always feel long.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, league executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent did say that there have been discussions about the play, but it didn’t sound like anything was imminent. Mark Maske reported him as saying that it would continue to be reviewed throughout the offseason.

Judy Battista reported that it was conveyed the Competition Committee would discuss the play at next month’s meeting, and indicated that opinions are mixed. “Some argued it should be allowed and anticipate more offensive plays springing from it”, she wrote on Twitter.

The primary driver of the discussion this past season was the surge of the Philadelphia Eagles behind quarterback Jalen Hurts, who exploited the sneak to great effect throughout the season. That could center stage in the Super Bowl, where he attempted a number of sneaks, a play that has come to be viewed as virtually unbeatable.

I myself have contemplated whether or not the rules should be revisited about what is allowed in this context. After all, the league did push back the extra point line when it became apparent that kickers had become too good, and we’ve seen more misses since then. I don’t think even the NFL wants 4th and 1 to be an automatic first down for most offenses.

But at the same time, football has always been a game of responses. Offenses evolve to beat defenses and then defenses have to figure out how to stop the new offensive trends. And yet, as Battista points out, scoring was down last season, a five-year low at 43.8 points per game. So how much did it matter if quarterbacks were successful converting on 4th and 1?

Former NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino earlier this offseason said he would be “shocked if they don’t make a change” to the sneak rule this offseason. Roethlisberger also expressed his belief that the NFL will have to reconsider what they allow in these situations.

Pulling a ball-carrier is already clearly against the rules as written. Other matters are a gray area. Could the league take the step of making it illegal in these situations to push a ball carrier as well?

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