Rule Changes Good for Steelers?


I must admit I am surprised.

With some of the changes the NFL has made to its rule book over the offseason, I have not heard a collective cheer from Pittsburgh all the way out here in State College. Maybe the threat of the season being canceled has subdued fans, but for the first time since I can remember, a rule change/ variation, has impacted the Steelers positively.

One rule change in particular that will have the most positive impact on the Steelers is the change in kick-off procedure. Last week the league voted 26-6 to change kick-offs from the 30-yard-line to the 35. You may not think a five yard difference is that big of a deal, but I believe this change will impact the way the Steelers special teams plays exponentially.

Year after year, I watch Steeler kick-off men struggle to get the ball into the end zone for touchbacks. It had gotten so bad that the squib kick became a staple to the Steeler’s special teams. While the use of the squib kick had significantly reduced the total return yards Steeler opponents had last season, it also allows teams to start from their own 40-yard-line putting added pressure on the defense.

With arguably the best return man in the game in the Steeler’s division, this rule change will thrust the Browns further into illegitimacy. Admit it, when talking about Brown’s games the game plan pretty much comes down to — you stop Josh Cribbs, the Browns can’t score. Well, while the Steelers never have much trouble beating those brown nosers, stopping Mr. Cribbs has become a huge problem.

Watching Josh Cribbs complain to ESPN following the announcement of the rule changes made me giddy. Despite playing for one of the worst teams in the league for his career, Cribbs has always been able to hold onto the fact that he was one of the top-three most feared returners in the league. With these new rule changes, the league may be rendering the skills Cribbs brings obsolete.

These were the messages Cribbs released on his Twitter account following the league announcement:

“NFL rule changes are BS… U not making the game safer u messing a great sport, trynna hide behind safety just to add 2 games…smh.”

“… This means it will be touchbacks all over the place…,” he continued. “Essentially taking returners out of the game…injuries will still take place, then what move it up again, or eliminate it all together.”

While I agree that kick returns are one of the most exciting aspects of football, if moving the ball up to the 35-yard-line will allow the Steelers to get the ball into the end zone, and out of Cribbs’ hands, I’m all for the change. What I do have a problem with, is the league hiding behind this rule and saying it is for the safety of the players. I do agree that being a gunner on special teams, or the return man himself is one of the most barbaric positions to play in football, but trying to eliminate kick returns by making touchbacks easier will not eliminate injuries in the game.

The league may as well throw out passes that lead receivers over the middle, or make rushing the quarterback a 5-mississippi rule. The league is not going to be able to take injuries out of the game, because injuries are part of the game.

But if the result of league imposed rule changes are going to benefit the Steelers, I’d say let’s clean the game up!