Pittsburgh Steelers first-year defensive coordinator Keith Butler is no neophyte to the team, nor to the coaching ranks, but he knows that he has a big debut on his hands as he sets out to launch his new defense full of question marks against the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, with Tom Brady under center.
I would be inclined to say that that would be the primary contributor to the way that he responded to questions from the media yesterday, but the reality is that that is simply his personality, something that has carried over with him from his time as the linebackers coach.
Butler wasn’t interested in specifics and nuance, nor was he concerned much with cliché. As with the rest of the team, including the coaching staff, he is singularly focused on the goal that lies before him, which is to win games.
Knowing that the defense is one in transition, a unit that has increasingly been giving up yards, points, and big plays, while going the opposite way in terms of sacks and turnovers. The lineup has turned over, however, as have some of the core concepts of the unit, since last season.
This has raised a number of questions about what the defense would look like, and what its identity would be. When asked about the identity of his unit, however, he dismissed the cliché notion and simply relayed his desire to be the team that has one more point than the other, reasoning, that “that’s all that counts”.
While that in itself may be a cliché, it is perhaps the only one that bears true meaning under any circumstance in the sporting world. Winning is paramount. That is the end toward which every mean aims, including the establishment of a defensive ‘identity’, such that it means anything to have such a thing, or at least a label for one.
To that end, Butler was nonplussed when asked about what his defense would look like, simply saying that we have only seem “some of it”, when prompted about how much he has shown of what he plans to do during the preseason.
The defensive coordinator has always been one to cut through the nonsense, and that was on display when quizzed on how he planned on limiting Rob Gronkowski, New England’s All-Pro tight end.
Butler was quick to dispel the notion that there was any kind of trick up anybody’s sleeve that they could simply take out when convenient to limit Gronkowski, saying that “they’ve seen everything” over the years with team’s experimenting how to cover him.
Rather, he said, “we just have to try to execute and play the best we can”. For an old football mind such as he, the game is still very much simply about beating the man in front of you. More often than not, if you win your matchups, you win your games.
There’s only so much that strategy can do to limit that. No matter who covers Gronkowski, he has to execute. No matter what schemes Butler runs, they must be carried out. No matter what the identity of the defense—no matter who is playing—it quite simply must perform.