The National Football League and the NFL Referees Association have made little to no progress toward a multi-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that would end the ongoing lockout. The situation looks so bleak that the league has already contracted replacement referees and intend on moving forward in that direction.Pittsburgh Steelers fans complained about the officiating, now for the first time since 2001, the league is preparing to use replacement officials in games. In fact, these officials are making their rounds through training camp (they were in Latrobe this week), attempting to hone their craft. Of course, in 2001, the use of replacements lasted a mere preseason game; no one knows how long this impasse will last
The stalemate between the league and NFL Referees Association began in June when two mediation sessions failed to work out a new CBA between the two sides. While both sides have voiced optimism that an agreement can be reached prior to the start of the season, players and fans both have reason for concern, especially with the leagues new emphasis on player safety. Complicating matters is the fact that the replacement officials will not hail from BCS conferences; instead, they will be from lower level competition where the speed of the game does not come close to the speed of the NFL.
If this does come to fruition, and replacement officials take the field, the quality of the game could suffer, not to mention a rash of increased fines as the commissioner will have total influence on this group. Ironically, Commissioner Roger Goodell does not seem concerned about the situation, repeatedly backing his plan to move forward unless something desperate happens.
For the Steelers, this officiating standoff could play a huge role in the effectiveness of the physical defense that head coach Mike Tomlin desires and is working toward in camp. Unfortunately, no one knows how things will play out. One thing is certain, both fans and players will get their first look at these officials this weekend as the NFL preseason kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game.
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