Steelers

Colin Dunlap: Cut Blocking Seems A Cowardly Approach

By: Colin Dunlap - CBS Pittsburgh
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(Photo Credit: Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images)

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Maurkice Pouncey is done.

He’s finished, kaput. At least for 2013.

The Steelers’ all-everything center and lynchpin of that offensive line was done-in on Sunday by some friendly fire, a cut-block-gone-bad from right guard David DeCastro.

The cut-block was intended for Tennessee defensive tackle Sammie Hill, instead finding Pouncey’s right knee and busting up his ACL and MCL in a play that made fans shudder, Pouncey writhed and DeCastro put his hands on his head in disbelief.

What a shame.

And let’s get something square right off the top — DeCastro did zero wrong within the confines of how the rules in the National Football League are currently constructed. No, instead, it is some rules that need a-changin’.

Why in the world is the play DeCastro was attempting legal?

Why does a league so damn worried about player safety find it logical to allow a hulking man — in the close line zone — to leave his feet and dive at the lower extremities of another hulking man in an attempt to block him?

What ever happened to having the pride, and taking deep pleasure in, looking across that line of scrimmage and knowing you wanted to try to beat the snot out of that guy in a different colored shirt?

Straight up. Head-to-head. Man to man.

All day, big boy — let’s go at it.

Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel was asking the same thing after Pouncey’s season-ending injury, when he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

“Guys are big enough and strong enough to block. … I know it’s legal, technically, but it’s been proven that guys are getting their knees blown out. The league has got to do something.”

That something is easy — eradicate the technique.

And, again, please understand DeCastro did nothing wrong. It is the game that is patently flawed.

Let me ask you something about these cut blocks …

For this column I spoke to a current NFL offensive lineman from another team (not the Pittsburgh Steelers) who didn’t want to be identified. In a connection of the dots that I hadn’t thought of, he said to me, “We do it in games but never in practice. That should probably tell you how safe [cut blocking] is.”

There you go.

The technique is good — “good” being a loose term here — enough to use on the opposition in a game, but never risky enough to use against your own guys in practice.

What a farce.

That tells me all I ever need to know about this gutless and lily-livered method of slowing down a defender.

Want to show your true manhood in a football game as an offensive lineman? Stand up, face-to-face and hand fight. Trust your technique and prove you’re tougher than that big brute across the scrimmage line.

The National Football League is built on fearlessness, sold to you because of the machismo and overwhelming masculinity it projects for those 60 minutes of the clock when two teams bangs heads with each other.

What’s so bold, tough, strong or courageous about a cut block?

Nothing.

And I’m not the only one.

A much higher authority on offensive line play than I will ever be (and maybe the highest authority ever) is Joe Bugel. A Munhall native, Bugel developed the Washington Redskins’ Hogs into a legendary unit, his men beating the hell out of other men in a confined space with a ferocity not seen before or since on a football field.

In a Nov. 2011 interview with the Houston Chronicle for a story about cut blocking, Bugel said:

“We weren’t going to jeopardize a man’s career by cut-blocking. The guys I coached, guys like Russ Grimm wouldn’t do that. And I wouldn’t ask them to.

“There is no way a guy can protect his knees against cut-blocking. Keep getting cut; sooner or later you’re going to be in a hospital having surgery. I think there is some integrity involved. In those days there was integrity.”

Bingo, Mr. Bugel.

Spot on.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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