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Steelers could give up home game to play internationally

| Friday, March 18, 2016, 2:55 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell dives into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown against the Vikings on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, at Wembley Stadium in London. Coach Mike Tomlin has now banned what he calls such 'silly' celebrations by his players.

The Steelers soon could play a regular-season game in Mexico City, team president Art Rooney II said Friday.

If the Steelers hope to participate in the NFL's expanding International Series, they likely will have to surrender a game at Heinz Field, Rooney said.

The NFL will play four games — its most ever — outside the United States this season, including the first regular-season game in Mexico in more than a decade.

The Steelers don't want to forfeit a game at Heinz Field, but they might have to in order to play internationally, Rooney said.

“There will be a game in Mexico for the next three years, so like I said, we've kind of raised our hand for that one, and hopefully we'll get selected one of these years,” Rooney said.

The Steelers have played preseason games in Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Japan and Spain and a regular-season game in England.

However, they never have had to forgo a home game to play internationally.

With few teams willing to give up a home game, Rooney, who is on the NFL's international committee, could be compelled to consider playing one fewer game at Heinz Field.

The Steelers have sold out every home game since 1972 and recently added 3,000 seats to accommodate ticket demand.

“We only have a handful of teams that don't mind giving up a home game, and they are the ones kind of in the mix,” Rooney said. “That is definitely a challenge. It is a challenge for us. We would like to play in some of these games, but we are not anxious to give up a home game. Maybe some year, we may have to do it once.”

Rooney said the Steelers would have to get permission from the owner of Heinz Field — the Sports & Exhibition Authority — to give up a home game, but it is something permitted in the lease.

“We only have eight regular-season games and two preseason games, so you are always reluctant to take one out of the mix,” Rooney said.

The Steelers' lone regular-season game overseas came against the Minnesota Vikings in 2013 in London. The Vikings forfeited a home game then.

Rooney acknowledged giving up a home game would be accepted “not very well” by fans. However, he said there is a need for more games outside the United States if the league hopes to put a team in another country.

“So, we're going to need maybe, let's say six to 10 at some point,” Rooney said. “That's going to be a challenge to find that many games. I think that's going to get a lot of discussion at this meeting in terms of where we're going with that.”

In other news:

• Rooney said the Steelers are in favor of a proposed rule that would eject a player who receives two personal fouls in one game. The proposal would include only infractions of throwing a punch or forearm or kicking; using abusive, threatening or insulting language; and taunting.

• Several proposals favor an increased use of replays. Rooney said he would like fewer replays. “I just don't think you want to have so many stoppages in the game,” he said. “I think when we first put it in, the idea was to try to correct a real, potential, game-changing play that was officiated wrong. ... I don't think we need to expand it.”

• The league likely will expand the horse-collar penalty to include the back of the shirt around the name plate. In the past, a player would have to grab the back of the shoulder pad to be called for a penalty. There hasn't been much support to adding tackling somebody by their hair as part of the horse-collar penalty. “The other answer is to make guys keep their hair under their helmet,” Rooney said. “That's an option, too. I do think it's something that probably needs to be looked at.”

• What constitutes a catch is not up for proposal by the competition committee, he said. “I think there's always going to be questions about it, and personally, I like the idea that you have to maintain control of the ball when you hit the ground.”

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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