The Steelers are experimenting with robotic tackling dummies during the team’s offseason workouts. Operated by remote control, the Mobile Virtual Player dummies simulate player movements at football speed.
Is this a glimpse into the NFL’s practice future? Steelers coach Mike Tomlin definitely sees the benefits.
“The applications we are quickly finding endless,” Tomlin said on the Steelers’ website. “It never gets tired. It runs at an appropriate football speed. All of the position groups are getting an opportunity to use it. It’s funny, you just put it on the field and watch the guys and they show you the applications. It’s been fun watching that.”
The Steelers’ inspiration for using the technology came from Dartmouth College, where it was developed. Dartmouth has eliminated live tackling during football practice, and former Dartmouth quarterback Danny Rooney is on Tomlin’s staff.
The Steelers seemed to enjoy practicing with the dummies.
“It looked like someone out of `I, Robot’” linebacker Arthur Moats told the team’s website. “But I definitely like it a lot, in a sense of being able to hit something in the open field, something that’s moving, that isn’t a teammate.”
It’s easy to see how mobile tackling dummies would help reduce practice collisions between players. Right now, the Steelers are simply experimenting. But using robotic dummies at practice to enhance player safety could be a smart idea that trends.