Keith Butler, for now, has met his goal. Give up no more than 16 points per game. The biggest reason for that has been a Pittsburgh Steelers’ red zone defense that’s allowed just a lone touchdown on seven trips. Quarterbacks have completed just 3/13 passes, failing to throw a touchdown, tossing one interception, and overall, the defense hasn’t allowed a gain of longer than six yards inside the 20.
For Butler, it all starts in practice, not a game, but practice.
“I think it’s because we practice that at least twice a week,” he told Missi Matthews on Steelers Nation Radio. “We call it seven shots. We go against our offense and our offense is a formidable foe. We like to compete in that situation and talk a lot of mess to each other. It’s a fun time for us but at the same time we’re getting in a lot of good work.
Our offense is a very good offense. So we try to use some of that in the game. So whatever I’m going to use in the game I use against our offense to see how it looks.”
Butler also noted the need to vary rush and coverage looks, dropping eight to force the quarterback to throw “through the picket fence” and generally challenging the QB to make the correct read on every single play.
Seven shots is how the Steelers have begun practically every training camp the last two seasons, a high-intensity way to kick off practice. As Butler says, it’s carried over into the regular season work week.
What’s also carried over is the success. A year ago, Pittsburgh had the sixth best red zone defense, allowing a touchdown just under half the time, per Team Rankings. Through two games this season, the Steelers are the league-leaders.
On the flip side, the Steelers are tied with the best red zone offense this season, scoring a touchdown on every opportunity. Only the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills (who still fired their offensive coordinator) have matched that.
The Philadelphia Eagles, in case you’re wondering, are tied with a whole host of teams for 18th place in red zone offense with a 50% success rate.