The Pittsburgh Steelers make their 2022 debut in just two days’ time, visiting the Cincinnati Bengals, who are now prime rivals not only in the AFC North but also in the awful stadium name rankings; their contests will now be held in Pittsburgh in Acrisure Stadium, and in Cincinnati in Paycor Stadium.
While we know the names of the venue and what to call them, evidently, the Steelers don’t know who will be calling the defense on the field—or rather relaying the plays from the sideline. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was asked yesterday about that.
Traditionally, the every-down inside linebacker tends to be the on-field signal-caller, the player most central to the defense who is always on the field. For the Steelers this year, that is expected to be 2022 free agent addition Myles Jack.
Austin would not confirm that that would be the case. “No, nothing’s settled. We’ll figure it out on Sunday”, he told reporters via transcript from the team’s media department on the subject of who would be wearing the ‘green dot’ on their helmet, which signifies a helmet with a headpiece in it that allows for one-way sideline communication.
If it isn’t Jack, then it likely will be Devin Bush, the fourth-year veteran who was nominally in a battle for his starting job this preseason with Robert Spillane. But it’s possible that they could give that role to other players such as T.J. Watt, who has worn it before, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The on-field signal-caller has to have four chief qualities. First and foremost, he must have the skill, role, and endurance to be on the field absolutely as much as possible. Second, he must have a firm enough grasp on the defense that he can easily communicate the plays without it hindering his own game. Third, he has to be an effective communicator and help set his teammates up, diagnosing the offense in response to the play called. Finally, though somewhat less crucially, he has to have access to the middle of the defense where he can more easily communicate, which is why the role tends to go to inside linebackers.
Jack has done it before. Bush has done it before, albeit on a limited basis. There are other options. We’ll know on Sunday who it is because the dot will be there, so they certainly can’t hide who is operating in that role once they get on the field.
At this point, it’s hard at least for me to imagine that it will be anybody other than Jack, unless they want to give it to Fitzpatrick. But we only have a couple more days before we find out, at least for the opener, who is doing it. Then we’ll have to see if that role remains consistent.