The NFL decided against changing late-game situations for the teams trying to mount a comeback. Tabling the proposal to change onside kicks to a 4th and 15 play, Steelers president Art Rooney II said the idea wasn't creative enough.
The NFL did approve six changes for the 2020 season:
"We had six items we could have voted on, and we wound up approving four of them and tabling two of them," Rooney said to Steelers.com's Bob Labriola. "We approved the defenseless player rule for returners. We approved the rule on limiting the pre-snap fouls that people started to play with last year (to run time off the clock). We approved the item concerning extra points being replayable. We also approved the bylaw proposal that increases the number of players who can be designated to return (from the injured reserve list) from two to three. Those were the ones we approved. There's another designated to return proposal that got tabled, and then the one that got the most discussion was the onside kick alternative, the fourth-and-15 rule, and that also got tabled."
The change for an onside kick situation late in games didn't feel right enough for owners to make the change this season. Rooney said there may be room for discussion in the future, but for now, it didn't gain enough traction.
"That one (fourth-and-15) got the most discussion, and there's interest in possibly looking at what we can do here, but there wasn't enough support for this particular proposal, and the Commissioner left it open that we're still open to ideas about what to do about this," said Rooney. "I think everybody agrees that it would be good to have some form of onside kick available to teams trying to make a comeback. Under the current rules for the kickoff, it has become almost an impossible play to make. I'm skeptical that we'll come up with something for the 2020 season at this point, but the Commissioner did leave the door open for further discussion on it."
The rule change wasn't just for trailing teams late in games. Instead, it would allow both teams to have limited attempts at the alternative onside kick.
"The proposal that was on the table was not exclusive to the trailing team," Rooney said. "It can be used at any point in the game by either team. The only limit was that you can only use it twice during the game. They did turn it into an untimed down. I'm not sure why, but the reason they amended it to an untimed down was to prevent it from being used as a clock-killer by the team that is ahead. Sort of running around behind the line of scrimmage, maybe killing five seconds or something like that. That was the adjustment they made."
At the end of the discussion, though, Rooney and head coach Mike Tomlin both agreed to pass on the idea.
"We really weren't in favor of this one," Rooney said. "I would say we're open to thinking about whether there's something we can do with the kickoff in a more traditional setting that might allow onside kicks to have a better chance of happening. But this one was just a little bit too much of a gimmick. Coach Tomlin and I just didn't like the idea."