Jerry Seeman was promoted to referee succeeding Don Wedge who returned to being a deep wing official, primarily as a back judge, where he continued to officiate through 1995. Seeman served as a crew chief for 12 seasons, working Super Bowl XXIII and Super Bowl XXV before leaving the field to succeed Art McNally as NFL Vice President of Officiating from 1991 to 2001.
Major rule changes
Whenever the quarterback is sacked, the clock will be stopped for at least five seconds and then restarted again. (The stoppage was eliminated effective the 2014 NFL season.)
If a fair catch is made, or signaled and awarded to a team because of interference, on the last play of a half or overtime, the period can be extended and the team can run one play from scrimmage or attempt a fair catch kick.
The league's jersey numbering system was modified to allow defensive linemen wear numbers 90 to 99, in addition to 60 to 79. And centers were allowed to wear 60–79, in addition to 50 to 59.
Players are prohibited from wearing torn or altered equipment. Tear-away jerseys are banned.
During kickoffs, punts, and field goal attempts, players on the receiving team cannot block below the waist.
The zone in which crackback blocks are prohibited is extended from 3 yards on either side of the line of scrimmage to 5.
Players cannot use their helmets to butt, spear, or ram an opponent. Any player who uses the crown or the top of his helmet unnecessarily will be called for unnecessary roughness.
In order to prevent incidents such as the Holy Roller game, the following change is made: If an offensive player fumbles during a fourth down play, or during any down played after the two-minute warning in a half or overtime, only the fumbling player can recover and/or advance the ball. This change is known as the "Ken Stabler rule" after the Oakland Raiders quarterback who made the infamous play in the Holy Roller game. In officiating circles, it's known as the "Markbreit rule" after Jerry Markbreit, who was the referee for that game.
Uprights were extended to 30 feet above the crossbar.
Starting in 1978, ten teams qualified for the playoffs: the winners of each of the divisions, and two wild-card teams in each conference.
New England Patriots: Ron Erhardt was named as permanent head coach. The team had suspended Chuck Fairbanks for the last regular season game in 1978. Fairbanks had been in talks all that season to join the University of Colorado Buffaloes, breaching his contract with the Patriots. Coordinators Erhardt and Hank Bullough took over as co-interim head coaches for that final 1978 game. Fairbanks was reinstated as head coach two weeks later for the Divisional Playoffs, but left in the off-season to join Colorado.
Several changes were made to the officiating uniforms, including:
Referees were outfitted with black identifying hats, while all other officials continued to wear white hats. This was the same as the Canadian Football League at the time, but the opposite of American high school and college football.
For the first time, each official's position was identified on his shirt. The position was abbreviated on the front pocket of the shirt and then spelled out on the back above the number.
The numbering system for officials was altered, with officials numbered separately by position rather than as an entire group, making duplicate numbers among officials common.
The TV numbers on the Dallas Cowboys' blue jerseys moved from the sleeves to the shoulders, matching the white jerseys, which moved the TV numbers to the shoulders in 1974.
The New York Giants began wearing their white pants with their white jerseys, discontinuing their blue pants
The Washington Redskins replaced their gold pants with burgundy pants with their white jerseys and white pants with their burgundy jerseys
The San Diego Chargers replaced the blue and white stripe on the yellow pants with a white lighting bolt outlined in blue.
^"Steelers History: A Tradition of Excellence". Steelers.com. Archived from the original on February 18, 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2014. Yet another standard was set the following year when the 1979 Steelers defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 31-19, in Super Bowl XIV to make them ... the only team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice