The Pittsburgh Steelers may have had enough to work with at the inside linebacker position heading into the 2021 season, but they understood that it would need to be addressed in the long term, and they did so in the draft with the selection of Buddy Johnson out of Texas A&M in the fourth round.
Now, taking a player in the fourth round isn’t going to guarantee you a starter down the road, but that’s the hope, I would assume, and they’re certainly going to train him with that goal in mind. He recently talked about what the coaches have asked him to work on during an interview on the team’s website with Missi Matthews.
“They’ve been asking me to learn the buck position. I think it’s a fun position”, he said. “First of all, the play linebacker for any team, I would say it takes a lot of vocal leadership, because you have to talk to the d-line, make sure they’re on the same page”.
“Just getting that vocal part out of the way, learning the plays, knowing your job”, he added. “That’s just kind of what they’re asking me to do. I do my best to make sure I’m fully aware of what’s going on and what I need to do, so I think it’s been great practices, and I look forward to whatever’s in front of me”.
Traditionally, the buck linebacker has been responsible for setting the defense, but that has been less the case with the increased usage of sub-packages. Since Lawrence Timmons left, the Steelers only use the buck about 70 percent of the time or so thanks to dime looks.
Bush, the mack, took over the green dot last season, and presumably, he’ll retain it for the remainder of his career in Pittsburgh, but just because one person gets the message from the sidelines doesn’t mean others don’t have responsibilities.
The inside linebackers are the nucleus of the defense, and hold the most responsibility in terms of relaying communications. It makes sense, since they’re centrally located within the unit, but it’s also because of the nature of the position, so it’s important that a rookie like Johnson gets that under his belt quickly.
But it could be a while before he sees the field on defense. The Steelers already have Robert Spillane and Vince Williams to man the buck position, and Ulysees Gilbert III and Marcus Allen also offer more veteran experience.
Johnson’s focus during his rookie season first and foremost will be on special teams, something defensive coordinator Keith Butler emphasized about his new linebackers—including sixth-round edge Quincy Roche—as soon as they were drafted. Once you establish yourself there, you can start worrying about the rest.