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The NFL says it will clarify the ‘Catch Rule’, but I’ll believe it when I see it

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After many confusing interpretations of its often controversial catch rule during the 2017 season, the NFL's Competition Committee will attempt to bring more clarity to it as it convenes in Orlando, Florida this week. Fans can only hope on-field officials are the people most sure of what a catch is in 2018.

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

I don't always pay attention to notifications of re-tweets I'm not directly involved with, but when I received one on Thursday about a Tweet from Al Riveron, the NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating, my eyes perked up.

If you're a Steelers fan, you no doubt can guess Riveron's Tweet pertained to the NFL's always controversial catch rule and how the powers that be were looking into ways to clarify said rule:

"After much deliberation & input from coaches, players, @NFLLegends, & club executives, the @NFL Competition Committee will recommend the following language simplifying the catch rule at the Annual Meeting next week."

Another part of Riveron's Tweet detailed the ways in-which the Competition Committee will attempt to clarify the rule:

  1. Control
  2. Two feet down or another body part
  3. A football move such as:

—A third step; reaching/extending for the line-to-gain; or the ability to perform such an act.

It's nice that the league will likely clarify these things at the annual owners meetings which kicked off Sunday in Orlando, Florida, but even in the language used by Riveron to explain the clarifications, you can see where people (mostly on-field officials and replay reviewers) would still be confused.

Again, if you're a Steelers fan, you obviously latched on to the second example in the previously mentioned list of football moves—reaching/extending for the line-to-gain.

The fact that that part needs clarification tells you just how over-officiated the NFL has become—especially when it involves determining a reception.

The catch rule has become so convoluted, a receiver extending his arm with ball-in-hand in-order to gain extra yardage and/or score a touchdown (something he can't actually do unless he possesses a football) isn't necessarily a catch if the ball comes loose once he hits the ground.

This, of course, brings me to the controversial Jesse James play that occurred in the waning moments of Pittsburgh's season-altering game against the Patriots last December 17 at Heinz Field.

In-case you don't know (or erased it from your memory), James caught a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the two-yard line and, after dropping to his knee, extended his arms over the goal line and appeared to score the go-ahead touchdown with 28 seconds remaining.

After a long review, the play was overturned, and Pittsburgh went on to lose the game, the number one seed in the AFC and, ultimately, the divisional round match-up against the Jaguars on January 14.

If the Committee does clarify the catch rule, that would mean James, in-fact, scored on that play—just not officially in any record book from now until the end of time.

"It is going to bother me forever," James said of the play in an interview published on Steelers.com on Friday.

"I don't think they know yet what is correct," James went on to say about the league's understanding and application of the rule. "I am hoping they will re-evaluate that and bring more clarity to it."

Countless other receivers around the league are hoping for the same thing, as are thousands of football fans who, at one time or another, have stared in disbelief after something that looked an awful lot like a completion was deemed incomplete.

It's a little too late for James, who really shouldn't let a play that has been a catch for the vast-majority of the NFL's existence haunt him for the rest of his life, but maybe he'll get a chance at redemption in the near-future.

As for the NFL, it has a chance to redeem itself regarding the most controversial rule in its book.

Most people know what a catch is when they see one.

Hopefully the NFL will, too, starting in 2018.