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Steelers Players Against Hip-Drop Tackle Ban

Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Kwon Alexander ripped the new hip-drop rule change in October.



Patrick Queen Steelers Linebacker

Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Kwon Alexander ran afoul with the NFL multiple times last season when it comes to supplemental discipline and that has him worried about what the future of the league might look like if a proposed change goes through. And he’s not the only one who is worried.

On Monday, the NFL officially banned hip-drop tackles, and that was met with outcry from defenders. But the NFL stood firm in their rationale.

“It is an unforgiving behavior and one that we need to try to define and get out of the game,” NFL vice president Jeff Miller said. “To quantify it for you, we see an injury more or less every week in the regular season on the hip-drop.”

“What’s happening on the hip-drop is the defender is encircling tackling the runner and then swinging their weight and falling on the side of their leg, which is their ankle or their knee,” Falcons CEO Rich McKay, the chairman of the NFL competition committee, said.

“When they use that tactic, you can see why they do, because it can be a smaller man against a bigger man and they’re trying to get that person down because that’s the object of the game. But when they do it, the runner becomes defenseless. They can’t kick their way out from under. And that’s the problem. That’s where the injury occurs. You see the ankle get trapped underneath the weight of the defender.”

If you’re counting at home, that ban means that defenders aren’t allowed to tackle by hitting the head of the ball carrier, grasping the facemask, grasping the back of the shoulder pads, quarterbacks can’t be hit low while in the pocket, and now the NFL will be adding more restrictions — and more fines.

“They’re making it hard for us,” Alexander said in October to Steelers Now. “I don’t really know what the game is coming to, for real. I don’t know how to stop from tackling someone around the waist. … I give it about three or four years, and I think they’re going to go to flag. How else are you going to tackle?”

The hip drop is banned in Australian Rules Football, but the Aussie game has significant differences from American Football — most significantly no helmets or shoulder pads.

Alexander says that NFL players sign up for the game understanding the injury risks, and while no one wants a sprained ankle, the hip drop is a better tackle than some of the alternatives.

Unlike contact with the head, a face mask or horse collar, it will also be extremely subjective.

“You can get hurt at any time doing this,” he said. “Trying to stop somebody from making a tackle like that, it’s going to be hard. … I don’t even know a technique to make that tackle (another way). If it happens, it happens. You could be at any angle trying to tackle somebody — you can’t go high. Where are you going to be able to go?”

Alexander was fined twice this season for head contact. He got the first fine overturned on appeal. His second appeal did not get overturned. And now, the NFL will fine players for hip-drop tackles, according to Ian Rapoport.

“I just hope they don’t fine anybody for that stuff. We’ve got families to feed,” he said. “They’ve got to slow that down.”

He’s not the only one who was against it. Patrick Queen took to X, the app formerly known as Twitter, and stated ‘2 hand touch gone be next lmao’, while in the past, Cam Heyward has blasted the idea.

“This is so stupid,” Heyward tweeted last year. “How the heck are we ever going to get guys on the ground. They thinking too much.”
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said in response to the NFLPA: “I have a technique that causes 20 to 25-percent injury rate when it occurs. I respect their position, but as gatekeepers of the game . . . this is something that we have to remove.”

NFL Vice President Jeff Miller says they have watched over 20,000 plays and believe the hip-drop tackle has come up at least once per game. The way it is described in the new rulebook is the following:

A hip-drop tackle will be called if a player:

(a) grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms; and (b) unweights himself by swiveling and dropping his hips and/or lower body, landing on and trapping the runner’s leg(s) at or below the knee.

It was reiterated that there had to be three phases of the tackle for the penalty to be called, which includes grabbing the player, lifting oneself off the ground, and then swiveling and dead-weighting on the opponent’s legs at or below the knee.

Currently, the NFL has listed the penalty as a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down. In addition, the NFL expects fines to be levied against players who employ the technique, similar to how roughing the passer and contacting the head or neck area are dished out. The NFLPA released a statement on the ban.

“League members of the NFL Competition Committee have indicated it is considering instituting a new playing rule prohibiting a tackling technique it described as the “hip-drop tackle.”  Despite this intent, the NFL also acknowledged that they were having a difficult time defining a “hip-drop tackle.”

While the players have consistently advocated for health and safety advancements, any prohibition on the “hip-drop tackle” technique is unfair to players and unrealistic to implement.  It places defensive players in an impossible position by creating indecision in the mind of any tackling player, puts officials in an unreasonable situation that will result in inconsistent calls on the field, and confuses our fans.

We call on the NFL to reconsider implementing a rule prohibiting the “hip drop tackle,” the NFLPA statement read.