Steelers using robotic tackling dummies during workouts

ByJeremy Fowler ESPN logo
Friday, May 20, 2016

That dummy can move.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are running offseason workouts with robotic tackling dummies alongside them, thanks to new technology from Dartmouth College's football team.

A feature highlights the franchise's experimentation with Mobile Virtual Player, a tackling dummy operated by a remote control, with the potential for a full-time implementation in 2017.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has seen his defenders drop into coverage, then react to a dummy's movements as if it were an opposing player. He calls it "an awesome piece of technology."

"I am always interested in ways to utilize technology in terms of teaching football," Tomlin told the team website. "We are excited to get a close look at it. ... It never gets tired. It runs at an appropriate speed. All of the position groups are getting an opportunity to use it."

It's unclear if other NFL teams are using a robotic dummy.

Tomlin's source for the technology is Danny Rooney, a former Dartmouth quarterback who's on the Steelers staff. Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens recently banned live tackling in practices. The school's Thayer School of Engineering helped Teevens keep tackling a part of practice in a safer way. Teevens said his goal was to eliminate repetitive impact on players.

The dummy can simulate an NFL running back, for example. It can cut, weave, stop and start. Its 40 time is around 5 seconds.

Tomlin told that the players are open to the idea. Linebacker Arthur Moats says the dummy looks "like something from 'I, Robot.'"

"It's faster than we think, faster than it looks," defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. "You realize it's fast when you have to catch up to it. You have to keep running. It's a good visual effect of how a running back or receiver catches the ball on the sidelines to give us a pursuit and open us up and give us an angle to the ball."