Keith Butler got his first win as a defensive coordinator Sunday in the team’s 43-18 win over the San Francisco 49ers and second-year linebacker Ryan Shazier played a big part in that as he registered a career-high 15 total tackles in the game. On Thursday, Butler met with the media and he was asked if Shazier is playing faster now because he’s not having to think as much.
“Well, he made a lot of good plays out there. It’s best to not let him think and just let him play, I think,” said Butler. “He’s getting more comfortable with the system and more comfortable with the speed of the game, in terms of the NFL. He’s getting better.”
Despite his solid performance Sunday, Butler doesn’t want his young linebacker to move forward thinking he has it all figured out.
“The thing you have to guard against, I think, is overconfidence,” said Butler. “Because, it’s true that the NFL is a humbling experience for everybody and there’s no exception to that. He’ll experience that too at some point in his career, like everybody does. I was glad with the way he played last week.”
The Steelers defense played well as a unit Sunday and that could be a result of the defense being “dumbed down” some like linebacker James Harrison has reportedly suggested in the past. Butler was asked Thursday if that is in fact true and he didn’t deny it.
“That is fair. He’s right in that,” said Butler of Harrison’s assertion. “We want to play fast and we want to know what we are doing. We want to be confident in what we are doing. As we go along and as we play this year, we will get better and better. Our goal is to get better every week, and I think we are capable of doing that, if we are smart enough as coaches to keep the menu in, you might say.”
More than anything right now, it does indeed look like the Steelers defense is playing faster than they did during the preseason. It probably helps that young players such as Shazier and defensive end Stephon Tuitt are in their second years as well. On top of all of that is the fact that the defensive line is playing more one-gap concepts which allow them to just worry about beating the man lined up across them.
While the season is only two weeks old, the Steelers defense is on pace to register 56 sacks in 2015. Additionally, they appear to be getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks than they have in recent years.
Overall, Butler seems happy with where his defense is right now but he’s also smart enough to recognize that they are far from perfect.
“There’s a lot we did improve on,” said Butler. “The biggest thing, I think, is that they seemed confident in what they were doing. And they executed well in a lot of instances. We still have work to do though. I was glad they played the way they played.”
The Steelers will play the St. Louis Rams Sunday on the road and they certainly will have to play fast this week in order to account for the speed of the diminutive Tavon Austin.
“He’s all over the place,” said Butler of Austin. “He’s a little like Dri Archer for us. He’s fast, a tremendous athlete with a lot of speed. They stick him out in different places, receiver and running back, also, in a position where they calls sweeps with him. He’s somebody you have to deal with, and that speed is pretty rare.”