There are many components that go into building a good defense on the football field. One of them is simply assembling a group of talented players. If you can mix in a good number of athletes who are also football players, even better. But all of that means little if you can’t get everybody on the same page and running the same plays at the same time in the same fashion.
That is why there is often so much talk about who is wearing the ‘green dot’, a small decal that is placed on the helmet of the individual on the field who has a speaker in his helmet that allows the coaching staff to relay calls into his headset up to 15 seconds before the play clock expires.
This player is responsible for relaying that call and setting the defense, or at least serving as the hub of communication, and it’s a role that isn’t easy to adapt to on the fly as a young player. Even veterans who haven’t done it before take time to learn it. James Farrior famously said of Dick LeBeau’s defense that he was still learning it by the end of his career.
So when you have a second-year player whom you’re trying to get into that role, it’s going to be a topic of conversation. The Pittsburgh Steelers wanted Devin Bush, their rookie first-round pick, to take over that role right away. It proved too much for him to be able to play at a high level, so they took the reigns off. But what about this year?
According to inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky, “the green dot is still up for grabs”, as he told reporters earlier today. “That’s for the Coach Tomlin interview. I don’t control the green dot”. Vince Williams has worn the green dot before, but he’s not expected to be on the field for every snap.
“Communication is very important on the football field, and the better you can do it from the front to the back is what’s so important, and that’s where some things were lacking”, Olsavsky acknowledged of last season.
“Offenses have been changing where they do things to screw with your communication”, he went on. “And we didn’t do a good job with our second communication. We can get the defense set, but then after they started moving, things were different”.
The Steelers had a lot of new pieces last season, from Bush to Mark Barron to Steven Nelson to Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was acquired via trade after the second game of the year. When you add on top of that a transition in terms of who is actually calling out the assignments, and learning to understand how to adjust the defense, there’s bound to be missteps.