Many players have played in the NFL since its inception. While every new player hopes to be one that redefines how their position is played by those that come after them, none intentionally set out to force the NFL to rewrite its rule book as well.
However, this has happened on several occasions. Either by a player’s aggressive style or by taking advantage of the rules in place at the time. A notable example, Ken Stabler. He would fumble the forward deliberately, so another Raider player could recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown in the final minutes of the game. While permissible under the rules, the NFL changed the rules preventing deliberate forward fumbles in the final minutes of a game.The Steelers have also had their moments, in NFL history, forcing the NFL to change its rules.
Several Steelers, either as a player, coach, or owner has led to the NFL modifying its rules. Mel Blount, Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis, Kimo Von Oelhoffen, Joey Porter, and Dan Rooney all have left their mark on the NFL, forcing the NFL to change its rules. Whether these rules have helped or hindered the game is debatable. Nonetheless, they helped change the NFL.
Mel Blount 1970-1983
What can you say about Mel Blount’s career that others have not? One of the top 5 Steeler players ever. Mel terrorized wide receivers with an aggressive form of play no other cornerback had mastered quite as well as he did.
Mel’s domination came within the confines of the rules. Few could play the bump and run like Mel. When he came into the NFL, defensive backs could still bump the receiver more than five yards downfield. Using that to his advantage, he had a season leading 11 interceptions in 1975. His play was so intimidating that by 1977 the NFL changed the passing rules. They penalized any contact beyond five yards down the field. This change opened up the passing game. It eliminated the threat of the receiver getting pasted by the defensive back while trying to catch the pass, allowing quarterbacks to pass for more yards than ever before.
The rule did not stop Mel from terrorizing receivers, eventually being elected to the Hall of Fame. Mel not only defined the cornerback position, but he also changed the game forever. The NFL even named the rule named after him.