Dan Rooney believes the NFL should take more charge of its playing fields to prevent the types of poor conditions that prevailed during the Steelers' game against the New York Jets Dec. 14 in Giants Stadium.
Rooney criticized the way personnel at Giants Stadium handled the cleanup of the snow that covered the field in the Steelers' 6-0 loss to the Jets. Stadium groundskeepers struggled to drag snow-covered tarps off the field before the game, then did little to clear the snow from the field.
Basically, all that was cleared were the sidelines, end zone and the yard lines every 5 yards.
"When we played in New York they didn't have anybody there to do the job," Rooney said. "We'll call up hundreds of kids to come out, shovel and do [cleanup work at Heinz Field]. We have all the equipment. They only had one truck. It was really bad, one plow."
Rooney said Giants Stadium personnel were unprepared to clear the snow even though the storm was forecast days before it hit. He said a similar situation existed Dec. 7 in New England when another storm dropped 2 feet of snow in the area and the Patriots seemed to be ill-equipped to clear the field and the stands for their game against the Dolphins.
"There are some teams that don't want the field to be that good," Rooney said. "They think they can get an advantage."
He said he did not think that was the case with the Jets, and he could not determine what happened in New England because he was not there. But he wants the NFL to get more involved to ensure the fields are more playable if snow strikes. The Steelers, for example, have hundreds of people at the ready to come clear off Heinz Field if snow hits.
"The National Football League, they have a responsibility to look at these fields ... get involved, say what's needed and things like that."
Rooney said he was particularly surprised by the lack of preparation in New York, where the Jets and Giants share the same stadium.
"If they had a brush, they could have brushed that snow off and as they keep brushing it, the plow would have had to come and take the heavy stuff off. That's how you do it. You get a brush and the brush takes it right down to this. You saw when we played games, we had it clear every game we played. ... They did try to clean the field, but they should have had the equipment to really be able to really keep it as clean as they can and kept the brush going around the field between plays and things like that. And at halftime, they should have really worked at it, gone and cleaned the whole field."
Rooney refused to blame his team's loss on the conditions of the field and said he was reluctant to say anything last week because he did not want to appear as if he were making excuses.
"I think it was a disservice to the fans. No. 1, we had white jerseys on and they had white pants and you blended right in with the snow. It was hard to see -- mainly for the TV audience."
Ron Colangelo, the Jets' vice president of public relations, said the team is aware it needs to prepare better. It was the first time the Jets played in a snowstorm since 1982.
"We thought the guys who were there that day did the best job they could with the equipment they had," Colangelo said.
Rooney praised the conditions this year at Heinz Field, which recently concluded its first year with the new Grassmaster surface. He said the field held up well after 10 Steelers games, six Pitt games and five high school championship games. Rooney said as the grass takes root, it will be better as the years go on.