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Art Rooney II favors full-time refs

PITTSBURGH -- Art Rooney II favors the NFL making referees full-time employees -- or at least looking into it -- as well as including more plays that can be reviewed during the course of the game.

But the Pittsburgh Steelers president gave referees a vote of confidence on Wednesday and said the league can help them if it "slows down on rule changes in general."

"We ask a lot of our officials," Rooney said. "They've got a lot more that they're looking at nowadays than ever before, and I think they do a good job on the whole. It's up to us league-wide to make sure we put them in a position to do the best job that they can do."

A missed illegal formation penalty at the end of the Kansas City Chiefs-San Diego Chargers game likely cost the Steelers a chance of making the playoffs, and it was among the errors this season that cast a light on the state of officiating in a game where the players continue to get bigger and faster.

Rooney said hiring some referees full time "could be a step in the right direction," and he would also like to see the number of plays that can be reviewed expanded. The Steelers, in their penultimate game of the season, lost possession of the ball against the Green Bay Packers after Ziggy Hood illegally batted it out of bounds following a blocked field goal.

Ryan Clark picked up the loose ball after Steve McLendon's block and tried to lateral it to William Gay. Hood batted the ball out of bounds after it hit the turf, and the Packers ended up with a first down at the Steelers 2-yard line since officials ruled Clark never had possession of the ball.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wanted to challenge the call, but it couldn't be reviewed.

"I think there's probably some changes that can be made as far as what is reviewable and what isn't," Rooney said. "I would not like to see us have more replays in a game but maybe more kinds of plays that are reviewable."

Rooney is open to the NFL expanding the playoffs though he does not support an overhaul of the system that would include seeding teams based on records without regard to division winners.

"I think our division competition is important," Rooney said. "It's really what creates the rivalries that we have that our fans enjoy. If that's part of [expanded playoffs] I wouldn't be in favor."