First we had the Rooney Rule, named after the Pittsburgh Steelers owner and designed to ensure at least one person of color is interviewed when head coaching positions come open in the NFL.
Now we may have the Steelers Rule. There won’t be any honor in this one if the NFL rules committee gets it through.
The new rule, which was discussed during this week’s NFL owners' meetings, would penalize teams and offending players alike when the player is called for multiple flagrant hits. Additionally in the spirit of player safety, the league is also cracking down on launching hits against defenseless players.
Some believe the new rule would be in direct response to the Steelers and their players. All-Pro linebacker James Harrison was fined a total of $100,000 last season for flagrant hits, according to a story on espn.com.
So guess who isn’t too happy with the new rule proposal? Harrison was all too glad this week to air his grievance on his Twitter account.
"I'm absolutely sure now after this last rule change that the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots," Harrison wrote on his Twitter page.
Interestingly, Steelers owner Art Rooney II told USA Today he is withholding judgment on the rule at this point.
"I'm not going to say I'm opposed to it. I would hope that it's something that is used judiciously, that is sort of reserved for repeated type of conduct," Rooney said. "I think if it's handled that way, it'll probably be effective. It's still under discussion."
But the issue is really about player safety. There has been an increase in injuries due to violent hits over the years. Players are often penalized and fined for over the top hits and there has even been the threat of suspension, but the team suffers very little outside of maybe a 15-yard penalty. Now teams may find themselves paying money, and possibly costing themselves draft picks—if Commissioner Roger Goodell has his way—for constant offending players.
Goodell said the “object is to have club accountability” in making the game safer.
It would be hard to believe the 32 team owners would go for giving up precious draft picks so expect that one to fall off the radar as a possible penalty. But the team fines seem realistic and should go a ways in curbing unnecessarily violent hits in a sport that is already violent by nature.
This way, perhaps teams of the offending player will get involved to make certain it doesn’t continue to happen.
(Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)