Labriola On

Art Rooney II previews upcoming meetings

There will be the usual proposals to expand the use of instant replay, and they'll discuss ways to streamline the pace of play in games. They will talk about several rules regarding safety, and consider the possibility of shortening an overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. In all, the NFL owners who will be convening in Arizona over the next few days will consider 15 new rules, six new bylaws, and three new resolutions.

But the most significant issue likely to be decided during the 2017 NFL Owners Meeting will be whether the Oakland Raiders will be cleared to become the Las Vegas Raiders.

According to a March 7 story written by Mark Maske of The Washington Post, "An influential joint committee of NFL owners 'is inclined to recommend' that the Raiders' application to move from Oakland to Las Vegas be put to a vote … at the annual league meeting. The joint committee, consisting of owners on the stadium and finance committees, has not yet made a formal recommendation that owners should ratify the Raiders' relocation."

Steelers President Art Rooney II is a member of that joint committee, and today he echoed that sentiment.

"As you know, the Raiders proposed a move to Las Vegas," said Rooney. "That's going to be a major item for consideration on the agenda. There are still pieces that have to fall into place as we speak, but I do expect that proposal is going to be voted on at this meeting."

During a 15-minute briefing today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Rooney also outlined some of the other proposals, and he indicated where the Steelers stood on those.

"There is going to be some discussion and rule proposals in regards to what is being referred to as the pace of the game, pace of play, and I think we support the effort to really try to make the game move along, not necessarily quicker, but a little smoother, not as choppy," said Rooney. "I think we have identified ways to cut out, sort of unnecessary downtime, in the little nooks and crannies in the game, without really impacting the game itself or the number of plays, anything like that. The object is not to change the number of plays in the game or dramatically change the time of the game. It's really an effort to try to streamline the game and make it feel less choppy, both in the stadium and at home."

As usual, Rooney said the Steelers are opposed to any expansion of instant replay, either in the form of more challenges per game, or in allowing more different kinds of plays to be challenged.

"There are some proposals about replay, one from the Redskins, about eliminating the requirement that you have to be successful on your first two challenges to get a third. Their proposal is just to have three challenges," said Rooney. "I think we probably would be opposed to that. We are fine with the rule, as it is. There is a proposal from Buffalo and Seattle that would permit a review of any play. We are not for expanding the scope of replay at all. I think that goes back to kind of the pace of play argument."

Another potential change to the replay rule would have all decisions on challenges come from the league offices in New York rather than from the on-site referee.

"There is a proposal coming from the Competition Committee to change replay, so that the replay responsibility would be back in New York, in terms of the final decision," said Rooney. "The (on-site) referee also would not go to that booth on the sideline. There would be a portable tablet that would be handed to him on the field. It's a proposal, I think, to speed up replay. They do take too long as far as we are concerned, so this may be a good opportunity to cut out some dead time in the game that's just not necessary."

In general, Rooney indicated the Steelers would be in favor of most of the rules changes designed to increase and/or highlight player safety issues, but as of today he said he isn't sure where the team stands on shortening overtime, on the relaxation of celebration penalties, and on the proposal that a kickoff going through the uprights would result in the touchback being at the 20-yard line instead of at the 25-yard line.

But he did agree with Commissioner Roger Goodell's expressed concerns about the pace of play issue.

"To me, I just feel like we've added replays after turnovers, replays after scoring plays and now there are people who want to add replays after any play in the book. I just think that's going the wrong way," said Rooney. "I think the attention span of people these days – most of our fans have a second screen they're looking at while they're watching the game, and if you're not moving things along pretty good, they'll move along to something else. It's sort of the nature of where things are going. So I just think it's a question of adjusting to the times [and] adjusting to the ways people watch games nowadays.

"We're just sort of eliminating the stuff that's easy. Do we have to at some point go beyond that and look at going further in terms of reducing the length of the game? We might have to do that at some point, because I do think it's a recognition of where we are with the fans and what they're paying attention to while they're watching the game now."

On two other issues specifically of concern to Steelers fans, Rooney said the team is not on the list to play a 2017 regular season game in Mexico, and that the team will not have a throwback uniform in 2017 but is looking at possibilities for 2018.

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