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Steelers Defense: Who Should be the Dime LB Moving Forward?

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Steelers Devin Bush

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers may have a dilemma at their dime linebacker spot. A week after Robert Spillane missed the Colts’ game due to injury, is it possible that there could be a switch being made at the position for Pittsburgh? Maybe, as the Steelers experimented with both Myles Jack and Devin Bush at the position against Indianapolis.

One of the players rose to the occasion while the other fell back a bit. The one that rose was Bush, while Jack had one of his rougher nights in a Steelers uniform. Jelani Woods, who became the mismatch weapon the Colts were looking for, diced up Jack in coverage all game. It was a new matchup for Jack to face, and even on some third downs, Woods got the better of him.

“I have to be better in coverage there, man,” Jack said. “He got me all night. A lot of times I tried to stay in his hip pocket and stay with him, but I have to be stronger, I have to be better. Credit to him, he’s a really good player. But I really need to be better there in coverage moving forward.”

Without Spillane, Jack and Bush needed to step up in a big way. For the most part, that really came true. In fact, on their downs when the Steelers deploy their dime defense the most, Indianapolis converted only a quarter of their opportunities on the night. It was further proof that the Steelers could do some good things on third down even though the third down defense has been lukewarm. For Jack and Bush, it was all about the next man-up capabilities.

“You know, you hate it when one of your guys is down and out,” Jack said. “But when anyone goes down, we all have to be ready to step up in new roles. That role (Dime LB) is not that different for me or Devin. And if I or Devin go down, Rob would have to fill some of our roles, too. We can all do it. It’s just the next-man-up mentality.”

A week before, Spillane struggled to contain Samaje Perine in the passing game, including getting stiff-armed on one touchdown and allowing another. On his third, Jack could not fight through the trash to get to Perine. However, Bush has been under the radar good in coverage this year. He’s only allowed one touchdown all season, and against the Colts, while he allowed 4 catches on 5 targets, he held those receivers to only 15 yards.

In the past, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin noted that Spillane’s communication is what keeps him there at dime linebacker. While the Steelers may not see enough to change just yet, Bush is putting a great case to get in there as a coverage specialist. With his strong season coming to fruition, it is time the Steelers at least give thought to who the dime linebacker could be.

Bush would give Pittsburgh the coverage ability and blitzing ability they would need. Spillane would get pushed into a much more comfortable run-down role where his capabilities can flourish. Meanwhile, Jack can continue being the leader and veteran of the group. They all should be able to communicate at a baseline, and Bush has worn the green dot before, thus proving he should have that capability in his arsenal. So, is a change at dimebacker coming? Maybe it should.

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