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Steelers' Hampton wouldn't block rule change

| Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, 4:36 p.m.
Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton plays against the Bengals in October. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Ravens' Ray Rice tries to get around Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton during their Nov. 18 game. (AP)

Casey Hampton, the Steelers' veteran nose tackle, is hesitant to complain about the Baltimore Ravens' offensive linemen skirting the rules that allow them to block him below the waist.

“They can block a guy when we're engaged, and it's just part of the rule,” Hampton said. “There are a lot of rules people don't like, but everyone knows the rules are geared for offenses to do well. That's just the way this league is.”

Now the league's competition committee is considering a ban on all blocks below the waist. If the ban passes, the league's most dominant defensive linemen could become even more of a force.

“No question about it. If a defensive lineman doesn't have to worry about a guy going after his legs, he'll definitely be more dominant,” said Hampton, a five-time Pro Bowl selection. “It'll be surprising if they do something to protect the defensive player a little more.”

The Ravens (8-2), who can clinch the AFC North title with a victory Sunday in Baltimore, have drawn the wrath of the Steelers' defensive front the past two seasons for their high-low blocking technique, specifically in the run game.

“I'm not sure if they do it against other players, but they block me like that,” said Hampton, who was limited to one solo tackle in a 13-10 loss to the Ravens two weeks ago at Heinz Field. “It's effective, what (Baltimore) does, so if it's not illegal, then I don't fault them for doing it.”

However, offensive linemen aren't allowed to block below the waist in passing situations. Hampton said the proposed rule change likely would even the playing field in the run game.

More important, defensive linemen won't be as susceptible to possible season-ending knee injuries like that of Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, who was blocked below the waist by New York Jets guard Matt Slauson.

Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood feared he was temporarily paralyzed when chopped from behind by Oakland guard Cooper Carlisle in Week 3. Hood said he was stretched out on the field for a brief moment before regaining feeling in his legs.

“I was holding my gap, then I felt pressure on my knee,” Hood said. “It hurt like a big dog just lying there. I knew exactly what happened.

“I didn't know how lucky and fortunate I was to walk away from that situation. I'm still counting my blessings.”

Defensive end Brett Keisel said the league should have long ago addressed a rule change.

“The illegal blocks that are allowed today are ridiculous,” he said. “A guy like Casey can be engaged with a center, and a guard can come and take his knees out. (The league talks) about safety, but I don't see how letting that play be allowed is safe or still legal.”

Hood said he understands the cut block rule but fears defensive linemen in 3-4 formations are unable to protect themselves, especially against zone-blocking teams like the Ravens, Houston and Washington.

Steelers guard Ramon Foster is concerned, too, about how the Ravens' offensive front trap blocks the Steelers. He figures it's probably the only way the Ravens can contain the 325-pound Hampton.

“You have defensive guys saying we can't hit them a certain way, but some defensive linemen come at us cutting us a certain way,” Foster said. “You can't complain because that's part of the game right now.”

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com.

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