What a difference a year makes for Pittsburgh Steelers rookie outside linebacker Bud Dupree. A year ago, in college, he was playing for a team that recently converted to a 3-4 defense in which the linebackers were coaches by the defensive line coach. It was only for this upcoming season that the Kentucky coaching staff hired a linebackers coach.
After being selected with the 22nd overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Steelers, he is now going to a team that is, for the first time in its history, as far as I’m aware, formally specializing the linebackers coaching staff, with a coach for the outside linebackers and another for the inside linebackers.
Dupree’s new position coach, former Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter, is quite a mentor to have, and the pair should both be quite happy about how things worked out, as is inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky, also a former Steelers linebacker.
Last season, both served as assistant coaches under Keith Butler, who served as the team’s linebackers coach for over a decade before being promoted to defensive coordinator this offseason.
Upon taking over the helm, Butler elected to split assignments for his two assistants. Now, Porter gets to focus on Dupree and the rest of the outside linebackers, specializing his knowledge and getting into more details than was possible when he was forced to give more universal talks that included the inside linebackers.
Olsavsky, naturally, will be able to do the same for the inside linebackers.
The Steelers are, in fact, part of a growing trend around the league, with coaching staffs expanding every year to include more specialization. Including the Steelers, there are now 11 teams in the league for the 2015 season that include at least one designated coach for either inside linebackers or outside linebackers, with a few of them, such as the Steelers, having both.
Interestingly, only the Seattle Seahawks, however, have formally specialized the secondary with designated position coaches for cornerbacks and safeties. Of course, the Steelers have in Carnell Lake a defensive back who has experience playing both positions.
Some of the names that employ an outside linebackers coach should be too surprising, such as the Jets, the Browns, the Broncos, the Saints, and the Eagles. A few, such as the Ravens and the Cardinals, employ inside linebackers coaches in addition to a full-time linebackers coach. The Cardinals’ new inside linebackers coach is none other than Larry Foote.
I believe that there will be an expansion of specialization within the coaching staffs of the national football league over the course of the next decade or so as the league continues to shift more toward technology and advanced metrics. Specialization will be made more clear; for example, with defensive end and defensive tackle coaches for 4-3 defenses.
It will be interesting to watch how the Steelers’ linebacker unit performs this season under their first year utilizing such specialization. Likely, most any meaningful change will be undetectable, but I wonder if it might not help younger players get comfortable and on the field faster.