While we’ll ultimately have to wait until Sunday night to see whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers make changes in their secondary in their home game at Heinz Field against the Indianapolis Colts, defensive coordinator Keith Butler hinted Thursday during his weekly interview on Steelers Nation Radio that cornerback Brandon Boykin will indeed see an increased role in the defense.
“I think we got to look at changing it up a little bit,” Butler told Missi Matthews. “Maybe let Brandon Boykin take some time in there for William Gay and move William outside. He’s played outside a lot for us, he’s made a lot of play in the nickel from outside and maybe give some rest to 41 and 31, Ross [Cockrell] and Antwon [Blake]. Give them some rest. Antwon in particular plays a lot on special teams and so he’s played a lot of football and he’s had a lot of reps at this point in the season. So, we’re going to try to give him a little bit of rest and we’ll see what happens during the week and see if we can keep him fresh.”
Butler’s comments mesh with the ones made by head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday during his weekly press conference and while neither have come right out and guaranteed that Boykin will indeed play Sunday night, it will be very surprising and disappointing if he doesn’t at this point.
Butler was later asked if he’s seen enough out of Boykin in practice to know whether or not he’s ready to contribute when and if his number is called Sunday night.
“He’s done some things well in the game,” said Butler. “We got to make sure we ease him in and he’s comfortable doing what he’s doing and knows what he’s doing and all of that stuff, so we can function as a good defense, function as a team, play team defense so everybody knows where he’s going to be and he knows where everybody else is going to be. So we got to see how that happens during the week in trying to formulate a plan by Sunday.”
Judging by all of the comments made by both Tomlin and Butler so far this week, I guess it won’t be surprising to see Ross Cockrell and Antwon Blake both get snaps outside and opposite William Gay Sunday night. The Steelers, however, normally play quite a bit of nickel defense on a week-to-week basis, so Boykin figures to get a good share of snaps Sunday night as the team’s nickel cornerback.
The Steelers tackling in their secondary was atrocious in Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks and while they were not alone in that category, Cockrell and Blake certainly missed their fair share. Butler was asked Thursday to talk about his units tackling on Sunday and as you would expect, he wasn’t happy with what he saw on the coach’s tape.
“Not as good, not as good as it has been in the past,” said Butler. When you lose a game like that, defensively, especially when you give up that many points, it’s always a combination of a lot of things and that’s one of them, tackling and not playing technique right, or not being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. Not tacking when you should, being in bad defenses when you shouldn’t be in bad defenses. All of that stuff. So it’s a team loss, a defensive loss for us. It’s not just the players, it’s the coaches too. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching them.”