Pittsburgh Steelers Practicing with Robots

The Pittsburgh Steelers are using Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) robot tackling dummies during offseason workouts in an effort to enhance drills and reduce injuries to players.

Whether the NFL will admit it or not, concussions are having devastating long-term effects on football players. Football-related concussions is exactly why Quinn Connell, a former engineering student at Dartmouth College, developed the Mobile Virtual Player (MVP), an autonomous tackling dummy that replaces the need to have one player take a big hit from another and risk getting hurt during practice.

And NFL teams are starting to take notice. The Pittsburgh Steelers are experimenting with the MVP robot during offseason workouts.

“The applications we are quickly finding are endless,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told the team’s official 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.”

Must-Read: Why Robots Should Replace NFL Players

The MVP robot has been clocked at a five second 40 yard dash time, and it can mimic many football moves. The video above, from the Steelers, displays the MVP robots being used for tackling, chase drills, and pass defense drills.

“I imagine it’s a great tool from a tackling tech standpoint,” Tomlin said. “In today’s NFL, with player safety the focus that it is, I think it’s going to provide opportunities to improve in that area without the hand to hand or man to man combat associated with that teaching.”

Quinn Connell, a former engineering student at Dartmouth College, developed the MVP robot to reduce the number of football-related concussions going forward. Dartmouth football coach Buddy Teevens banned tackling in practice, saying there were too many useless injuries taking place on player-on-player contact. No Dartmouth Football player will ever tackle another Dartmouth Football player again, thanks to the MVP robot.

In addition to the Steelers, MVP robots are being tested by an assortment of universities for football and rugby practice, and by the United States’ men’s and women’s rugby Olympic teams.

“It’s faster than we think, faster than it looks. You realize it’s fast when you have to catch up to it,” said Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt. “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.”

Here’s a video from Dartmouth’s spring ball practice highlighting their use of the MVP:

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.


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