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2019 Offseason Questions: Will Defensive Communication Be Improved?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in Latrobe at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their training camp sessions since 1966. While the vast majority of the legwork of building the 90-man roster is done, there is always some fine tinkering to do. Now it’s time to figure out who is worthy of a roster spot, and what their role will be.

The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they’re bound to have new starters.

How will those position groups sort themselves out? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in practice? Who is sitting out due to injury?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will the defensive communication be better than it was in the season opener?

It seems like it takes the Steelers at least a few games every year to sort through a series of issues in communication, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. While it’s true that every team in the NFL suffers from these glitches, at least as it concerns the opening weekend, Pittsburgh’s seemed to be as bad as anybody’s. All three of their major miscommunication issues led directly to the three touchdowns that the New England Patriots scored against them.

There are a few factors that lead one to be optimistic that it shouldn’t be as big of a problem this week, however, and arguably the biggest one will be the return of Sean Davis at free safety. Like him or not, he is a primary communication hub on the unit, and the safety communication was the weakest on the team, so getting the most experienced starter in the team’s system back has to be an asset.

It will also be the second game in-helmet for T.J. Watt as the defensive mouthpiece. While he said that it’s not an issue for him outside of having the wind to call the plays in between exerted efforts, the more you do something, the better you get at it.

Couple that with another week’s worth of clarity at the inside linebacker position relative to rotation and communication roles, and the fact that the Steelers are going to be playing at home, and I find a compelling case to make for improvement in communications today. Now it’s just up to the defense to prove me right.

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