Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said during his Tuesday pre-game press conference last week that he had not committed to who would wear the green dot for the defense heading into the regular season opener. He talked about the opportunity to have multiple helmets on the sidelines, and that they will “exercise those options and leave it a little bit mystical”.
I don’t know that it was ‘mystical’, per se, but on a day when the Steelers made extensive use of their dime defense against a pass-heavy Buffalo Bills offense, they did indeed exercise their options, as both Devin Bush and Joe Schobert spent time as the inside linebacker on the field in their six-DB packages, meaning that both must have, at times, worn the green dot.
Bush, their third-year former first-round pick, was the first of the pair to stay on the field in their dime defense to start the game. He is recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered in Week 6 last year, and the coaches talked about being cautious working him back.
The Steelers started using Schobert as the dime linebacker as the first half progressed, as well. A former Pro Bowler and sixth-year player, Pittsburgh acquired him just weeks ago via trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is well-versed in wearing the green dot in different defensive schemes.
When Schobert first told reporters after his first practice with the team that the plan was for him to wear the green dot, it caused a minor furor among fans, many of whom were already frustrated with Bush for unusual posts that he made on social media, and then after looking tentative in his preseason debut.
The Steelers traded up from 20th to 10th in 2019, giving up second- and third-round draft picks, in order to get Bush, who was to be their every-down linebacker. They wanted him to call the defense from his very first snap in the NFL. That didn’t work out, but he was on the field for every snap up until his injury last year.
I don’t know what their plan is this year for the long term, but we obviously already know that he has been on the field at least sometimes in the dime defense. Will they continue to use both of their linebackers in that role at different times? Will it be Bush’s role 100 percent of the time when they feel 100 percent about his knee?
That’s something we’ll have to see as the year plays out. But at the end of the day, they have the advantage of having two savvy linebackers who can do the job, a problem they would gladly take on any day of the week.