Fans celebrate after the extra point was was kicked following the go-ahead touchdown by the Steelers over the Lions at Heinz Field in November.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ORLANDO, Fla. — Of all the suggestions and proposals discussed to change the extra-point attempt and make it more of a contested play, Dan Rooney might have the best solution of all. It certainly would be the most compelling.
As he walked from the ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes resort after the end of the NFL’s annual owners meetings, the Steelers chairman had his own version of what the league should consider as an alternative to the traditional extra point.
It would be much more drastic than what the league owners agreed to do Wednesday — use the first two preseason games to experiment with moving teams back to the 20 for an extra-point kick.
“They should use the rugby rule,” Rooney said.
Rooney’s suggestion was to have the scoring team attempt a conversion kick opposite the location the touchdown was scored and perpendicular to the goal line, as they do in rugby. The point-after kick could then be attempted as close to or as far from the goal line as the kicker prefers, also like rugby. That way, teams would have to be aware of where they score a touchdown to improve the angle for the kicker.
“It would make it more exciting,” Rooney said, smiling.
It was difficult to tell how serious the 81-year-old owner was. But he was not unlike a lot of coaches and owners who had their own version of how to change the extra point. That, though, was part of the problem: Trying to sift through all the voluminous suggestions to come up with something plausible to implement.
So, the owners agreed to the two-game preseason experiment that will push teams back to the 20 if they want to attempt a conversion kick. Teams who want to go for two points would still line at the 2.
The league also adopted a rule that will allow possession on the field of play to be reviewed by replay. The Steelers were the victim of not having that rule in a December game in Green Bay on a play when they blocked a field goal.
“I’d say there was a consensus for doing something, but I’m just not sure exactly what there is going to be a consensus about doing,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said after emerging from the meeting room on the final day of the four-day meetings. “I think the only consensus is to try something and have a play that is actually a contested play. I think there are a lot of different opinions on what we should do.”
Art Rooney II also said he “threw on the floor” the idea advanced by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to move the ball to the 1to entice teams to go for two points. Tomlin said that would still preserve the traditional extra-point kick.
His idea, like so many others, was never put to a vote because it wasn’t in the form of a proposal.
“It’s an experiment, we’ll see how it goes,” Rooney II said. “It’s not exactly what we would have been hoping for. Personally, I’d rather see us move to the 1 and see more plays run than a long field goal.”
Then, he added, “It’s one of those rules that will affect northern teams differently than teams in domes and other locations. I’d rather see the rule be one that applies more evenly than this.”
The extra-point proposal was submitted by the New England Patriots, though the original proposal was to move the spot of the ball to the 25 after a touchdown.
The Patriots, however, had one of their other proposals adopted: Goalposts will be raised by 5 feet to 35 feet, making it easier for officials to determine if a kick that has sailed over the upright is successful.
Rooney said the higher goalpost is one of the reasons the league voted to outlaw “dunking” over the crossbar after a touchdown.
“The higher the goalpost, the more difficult it is to keep them straight,” Rooney said. “You don’t want guys dunking and changing them. Then you have to bring a ladder out to fix the goalposts.”
While ignoring a proposal to make all plays subject to review, the owners agreed to allow possession in the field of play be subject to challenge.
Tomlin was not allowed to do that in Green Bay when Ryan Clark recovered a blocked field goal and lateraled the ball to William Gay, who fumbled. When Ziggy Hood batted the loose ball out of bounds, the officials ruled the Steelers never had possession and awarded the Packers the ball at the 2, leading to a touchdown.
Replay showed that Clark had possession of the ball before he lateraled, but Tomlin was not allowed to challenge because it wasn’t a reviewable play.
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