Rooney questions player protection proposal

| Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NEW ORLEANS -- A proposal to expand protection for defenseless players may not get the vote of Art Rooney II at the NFL owners meetings.

Rooney, the Steelers president, said Monday that he has reservations about one of three major rules changes proposed by the league's competition committee because of the onus it would put on referees.

"Everybody's for safety and trying to do what we can to make to make the game as safe as we possibly can," Rooney said. "The other side of that is you have to have a game where it's possible to officiate consistently game in and game out. The more judgment calls you put on them, the more difficult it comes. "

The proposal, which owners will vote on today, would prohibit the kind of hitting that the competition committee defines as launching. It needs at least 24 out of 32 votes to pass.

The NFL cracked down on helmet-to-helmet hits last October, prompting complaints, including from Steelers players, that the league had blurred the line between what is considered a good play and a dirty one.

"I really think we're asking a lot of our defensive players in terms of adjustments they have to make," Rooney said. "Now I think we're going to be asking a lot of our officials to really officiate this kind of stuff. I think we have to be realistic about how much of this is doable."

Dismay over replay

One rule that Rooney appears unlikely to vote for: a change to instant replay.

The competition committee has proposed that all questionable scoring plays be subject to review. In addition, coaches wouldn't receive a third challenge if they are successful on the two challenges each one is allotted per game.

Rooney said yesterday he needed to be convinced that the change would be a good one since he questioned whether it would make officials more reliant on instant replay.

"I think our replay rule is working fine," Rooney said. "The first time we did replay, it was basically an eye-in-the-sky thing where any play could be reviewed. (Officials) basically started to be hesitant to make a call because they knew everything they were going to do was going to be reviewed. I think that could be one of the effects of this -- guys not wanting to make a call because they know it's going upstairs no matter what they call."

Stuck at seven

The Steelers are not expected to receive any compensatory draft picks when they are awarded today by the NFL.

Teams earn extra picks from a formula based on gains and losses during free agency the previous year.

The Steelers did not lose any significant free agents in 2010, and they signed inside linebacker Larry Foote and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El.

The Steelers have seven picks -- one for every round -- for the April 28-30 draft.

"That's not unusual, just to have seven (picks)," Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said.

Business as usual

Rooney said the Steelers sent renewal forms to season ticket holders last week because they are operating under the assumption that there will be a season in 2011 despite the current lockout.

"There's really no other way to do it," Rooney said.

He added that fans were made aware they would receive refunds for any games that are canceled.

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