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NFL Considering Rule Change on ‘Split-Flow’ Block That Injured T.J. Watt



Steelers OLB T.J. Watt NFL Rule Change

A total of 15 different NFL playing rule changes were proposed by teams for the 2023 season, five of which involve challenges and replay. There’s one potential rule change that might resonate with Pittsburgh Steelers fans a little more than the others.

The New York Jets would like to outlaw the “split-flow” block, which is when an offensive player motions past the center and aims below a defender’s waist. All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt absorbed a similar sort of hit from then-Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson last preseason.

Watt left the game with a hobbled knee, which was cause for a conversation on the topic. He later spoke about the problems that come from and how it handicaps a defender, saying, “I don’t know how you can really play that block and get in the ‘C’ gap area effectively, so just going to have to figure that one out, I guess.”

Earlier in the same preseason, the New York Giants’ Kayvon Thibodeaux missed time because of the same type of play. The New York Jets submitted the idea citing player safety as the reason.

As of now, the cut block is legal within the tackle box. Prohibited contact with the rule includes lowering the head and making forcible contact with any part of the helmet against any part of the defensive player’s body.

Expanding the illegal crackback rule would be welcomed by plenty of defenders, among them Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward, who’s also a player’s union representative.

“I know it’s a legal play right now,” Heyward said to reporters following Watt’s injury. “We’ve cleaned up where the DB can’t shoot the gap and go at the O-lineman. We should work towards player safety, because it’s a bang-bang play where a tight end goes up and goes straight for your knees.”

Other NFL rule change proposals include the Houston Texans wanting to give the replay official the jurisdiction to review failed fourth-down tries and the Philadelphia Eagles trying to create an alternative to the onside kick.

The owners will consider any rule change when they meet later this month in Phoenix.