The Steratore brothers, Gene and Tony, are here as part of the officiating crew that was assigned to the Steelers practice to help out with interpretation of new rules and points of emphasis.
Gene and Tony are both Washington County guys and we in the media had a good meeting with them early this afternoon after they showed us the NFL film on the new rules in place for 2009.
The Hines Ward block on Cincinnati's Keith Rivers was shown prominently when the new rule outlawing blocks behind the play to the head and shoulders were talked about.
Gene Steratore explained that those kind of blocks will still be legal as long as there's no blow to the head or shoulders delivered. What the league wants is a block to the torso. He also said that whether the blocker is coming back toward the line of scrimmage will come into effect.
Shots to the quarterback's knees will also be penalized this season - unless the defender is attempting to wrap up the QB.
Groups of more than two players in a wedge is also outlawed. Blockers cannot be set up in groups of three on kickoffs if that third blocker is within two yards of the other two players. Teams covering kickoffs must also have three players on the outside of both hash marks.
© Also of note was that the officials, when asked, explained why more holding calls aren't called against players trying to block James Harrison.
According to the officials, if a defensive player puts himself in a position to be held - ie. goes to a rip move which puts him up underneath the offensive player - then they won't call it unless the defensive player clearly gets his feet past the offensive player.
If at that point, the arm is still around the neck, it's a hold.
In this case, Harrison's lack of height works against him. Since he rips a lot, he's forcing the arm up around the neck. But until he gets his feet past the defender, it's not a hold.
At least that's the league's story and they're sticking to it.
© Gene Steratore brought Washington County judge Mark Mascara and his family out here for the morning practice. It was nice to see Mark out and about. He was recently diagnosed with cancer and my thoughts have been with him during his trying time.
I coached Mark's son, Jameson, in baseball a couple of years ago and got to know him and his family. They're good people and hopefully he can beat this.