James reacts to new catch rule

The way the rule was listed looked so simple.

It was Rule No. 2 under the 2018 Playing Rules Proposal at the NFL Owners Meetings.  

"By Competition Committee; Changes standard for a catch."

But simple, not even close.

The proposal that changes the standard for what a catch is, did pass unanimously at the NFL Owners Meetings in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday.

The NFL Competition Committee, of which Coach Mike Tomlin is a member, re-wrote the guidelines of what constitutes a catch, as clarity has definitely been lacking.

"I think the language element of it is a critical element," said Tomlin. "You have to find appropriate and thoughtful language that fits the obscure and the unforeseen. I believe we all can look at a catch and know what a catch is, but to come up with the appropriate language for the obscure and the unforeseen has been the task and I have been comfortable with what we have been able to get done. The play has been officiated and graded at real speed. I think some of the issues come in replay and with high def. I think that has been the challenge in terms of some of the language to be appropriate for some of the things that replay provides us."

The new standard is the following for what a catch is: 'Control of the ball; getting two feet down or another body part; performing a football move such as a third step, extending for the line-to-gain, or the ability to perform such an act.'

In other words, yes, with that being the new standard Jesse James would have scored a touchdown against the New England Patriots at Heinz Field.

"It should have been a touchdown either way," said James, speaking exclusively to Steelers.com after the new rule passed. "Whether it was the old rule, or this new rule. To reverse something on review it has to be clear cut. I feel like they didn't do a good job on that. It's nice to have the rule clearer.

"Clarification is good for the officials. The past few years it's been clear they don't know what they are calling. Game-to-game you see a different catch that should have been ruled a catch, or a catch that wasn't ruled a catch the week before. It's good to have a little bit more clarification to make it easier for the officials to make the right call.

"As long as the officials are calling it fair throughout, week-to-week, game-to-game, team-to-team. As long as it's all called fair it works for me. It's football. It's never going to change. There is human error all over the place. To make it simpler for the officials is always good."

It was that play in the Steelers-Patriots game, and several others, that stirred up the catch/no-catch controversy that has been the talk of the NFL ever since. The play happened in the fourth quarter, with the Steelers down 27-24, and just 34 seconds on the clock. Ben Roethlisberger connected with James for a 10-yard touchdown, with James going to the ground as he extended for the end zone. The play was ruled a touchdown on the field, but after a long delay with the replay officials looking at it, the call was overturned and ruled incomplete. Two plays later Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone, and the Steelers lost.

"The way you review something it has to be clear to overturn it," said James. "Without reasonable doubt, you have to know exactly what happened on the play to reverse it. I feel like there were times they didn't do that this past season. It's good to have change in that and make it clear what is a catch.

"The rule still sounds about the same. I don't look too much at the rule book, I just play the game. It sounds to me what a catch was, hopefully there is more clarification for the officials. They needed that to be able to make the right call."

In other news at the meetings, the New York Jets withdrew their proposal to change the enforcement for defensive pass interference. In addition, the proposal that permits a club to negotiate and sign a head coach candidate during the postseason while their team is still playing was tabled.

The owners also voted on several other rules, the following a complete listing of what has been approved to date.

Playing Rules Approved: -By Competition Committee: Makes permanent the playing rule that changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line.

  • By Competition Committee: Changes standard for a catch.
  • By Competition Committee: Authorizes the designated member of the Officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to disqualify a player for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field.

Bylaws Approved:

  • By Competition Committee: Makes permanent the liberalization of rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club's facility.
  • By Buffalo;: For one year only, amends Article XVII, Section 17.4 to liberalize the rule for reacquisition of a player assigned via waivers.
  • By Denver: Amends Article XVII, Section 17.16 to permit clubs to trade players from Reserve/Injured.
  • By Minnesota: Amends Article XVIII, Section 18.1 to replace the 10-day postseason claiming period with a 24-hour period.
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