The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted the man whom they believed to be the bearer of their green dot on defense for the next decade-plus last year when they moved up in the first round to take Devin Bush 10th overall in the first round.
In fact, they began feeding him those reps immediately. He wore the green dot throughout rookie minicamp. But he also wore it during OTAs and minicamp with the veteran first-string defense. They wanted to give him all of that work, in the hopes that he would be ready for it for the season opener, or at least soon thereafter.
He wasn’t, and he never wore the green dot as a rookie in 2019. But he did this season through the first five games, leading up to his ACL injury on Sunday, which prematurely ended his second year in the league. Now the team is in search of their next defensive signal-caller for the remainder of 2020.
But Mike Tomlin wanted to keep perspective on the subject when speaking to reporters earlier today. “Let’s be straightforward here. It’s not like Devin has been doing it forever. We just handed the keys to Devin here five games ago”, he said. “He was not the green dot, or the central communicator, in 2019”.
And he wasn’t, of course. In fact, T.J. Watt wore the green dot in the season opener a year ago, though he didn’t retain that post throughout the entire season. But Robert Spillane is equally capable of possessing the football knowledge required to handle those communication responsibilities, and has been in the Steelers’ system as long.
“We’re very thoughtful about that area. We were not in an area of comfort there”, Tomlin said of the state of that communication hub role this season. “Devin was growing, and growing every week. Are we going through a transition? Certainly. But it’s not like we had a grizzly veteran in that position who had been handling that job for a number of years. That’s something that’s been on our radar. It’s something that we’ve been very conscious of and its development here in 2020. That’s just gonna continue”.
None of this should come as a revelation. Any time you have a new mouthpiece on a unit, there are going to be some growing pains, and nobody should be surprised or taken aback by Tomlin alluding to the fact that Bush had them in his process of transitioning into that role.
He also would not commit to who would wear the green dot going forward, saying that it would be determined through the week, but Spillane did wear it on Sunday, and he also said that Spillane would be the primary player replacing Bush, so there’s a very good chance he does wear the green dot.
Whoever wears it, though, Tomlin’s comments suggest that he doesn’t anticipate a sudden degradation in communication abilities defensively in comparison to where they have been in the first five games. They didn’t just lose James Farrior out there, after all.