When the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Cleveland Browns back in Week 1, nose tackle Steve McLendon claims that he was illegally chop-blocked multiple times during the game.
“It happens a lot with this team, it happened to me three times in the first game,” said McLendon, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
As Bouchette pointed out in his Friday story, in order for a chop block to be legal, the lineman doing the chopping has to be playing one spot over from the lineman that has engaged the player being chopped. In addition, the player doing the chopping has to get his head in front of the defensive player that is being chopped so that he can identify that it is coming.
Got all of that?
After going back through the all-22 tape from the game in question, I have identified two of the three plays that I believe McLendon is referring to.
You should be able to pause these gifs below and as you will see, it’s questionable as to whether or not both are legal. In both instances it’s Browns left guard Joel Bitonio that’s doing the chopping on McLendon while he’s engaged with center Alex Mack.
Both of these plays happened in the third quarter and while the second of the two looks to be “more legal” than the first, they’re both still very dangerous. It’s funny how the league claims to be putting more of an emphasis on player safety, yet they still allow a form of a chop block to still be legal.
Until the rules are changed, McLendon says he will have to try and improve his technique to help avoid getting himself chopped and hurt and not worry about what is and isn’t legal.
“You have to do what you have to do to win,” McLendon said, according to Bouchette. “I understand they’re trying to win just like we’re trying to win. Would I like to not be chop-blocked or cut? Yeah, but that’s football. We’re doing what it takes to win.”
I found this video that released by the league prior to the start of the season and you might find it interesting.