The NFL owners recently considered 10 rule proposals, seven of which passed. Some others were tabled for further discussion at a later date, including a proposal that would have greatly expanded the prohibition of blocking below the waist to include conventional offensive and defensive plays that do not involve a change of possession.
A proposal submitted by the Competition Committee, the amendment would seek to “expand the prohibition on blocking below the waist by offensive and defensive players on scrimmage downs when contact occurs beyond five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage and more than two yards outside of either offensive tackle.”
Previously, the only prohibitions on blocking below the waist outside of special teams were during change-of-possession situations. In the name of player safety, they considered adding more player protections against such blocks, but unintended consequences were considered, resulting in the proposal being put aside for now, as Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II explains.
“The concern we had was you’re maybe trading one set of problems for another,” he explained to Bob Labriola for the team’s website. “This could have cornerbacks, smaller guys out on the field trying to defend themselves against 300-pound guards and tackles pulling around the end and trying to take on those blocks.”
“If you’re able to cut (the big guys) that gives (the little guys) a bit of a fighting chance against the bigger guy,” he added. “It’s really a question of big people against little people, and how do the little people defend themselves in situations in the open field. We just thought that rule needed to be studied a little more, and so that was tabled”.
The ability to block below the waist is pivotal for the Steelers’ defense and all who employ physicality in their secondary. Defensive backs like Joe Haden and Mike Hilton are not afraid to take on blocks by cutting down a puller and opening up the play for a teammate to make the tackle.
Prohibiting the ability of a cornerback to take down a pulling guard by going low would, let’s say, make their job substantially more difficult, and also substantially more dangerous. While nobody wants to see a player get chopped down low, you also can’t have guards smashing nickel defenders on a routine basis.
I could certainly see the owners eventually passing some sort of modified and more restricted version of this rule at a later date that creates additional protections for certain players in certain situations to avoid blocks below the waist. But the precaution at this time with the way the rule was written to me seems to have been prudent.