There is nobody more aware of the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers have recorded just one sack through the first two games than defensive coordinator Keith Butler, who is entering his second season in that role after serving as the team’s linebackers coach for a long time beforehand.
That lone sack came on Sunday against the Bengals when the quarterback scrambled, but the defense was able to reach him before he was able to gain the line of scrimmage, so it technically went for no gain as a sack, though it really wasn’t much of one.
Yet for all of that, Butler doesn’t seem to be overly concerned about the deficiency in sack numbers, and in a lack of overall pass rush. And that has an awful lot to do with the fact that the Steelers are currently sitting a 2-0.
“We’re here to win games”, he said in his concluding remarks about a question about why the team isn’t getting the same sack numbers that they did last year. “We’d like to have the numbers that the hierarchy of the defense of the league has, but it’s worth more to me to win ball games.”
The question started off by asking if they were just always a step behind from getting the sacks or if they weren’t really aiming to get to the quarterback, with the implication being that the defense is focusing more on dropping higher numbers into coverage.
“Well, we always aim to get there”, he said in response, “but sometimes when you’re ahead, you try to keep them from having big plays on you, and you don’t blitz as much. And we haven’t blitzed as much this year as we have in times past. Sometimes we drop eight to try to cover up some deficiencies in certain zones that we run”.
It should be noted that the Steelers have hardly played from behind at all thus far through two games. against the Bengals on Sunday, the game was tied until the 3:46 minute in the first quarter when they went up by a touchdown. Cincinnati never came within a field goal after that, and halfway through the fourth quarter trailed by 15 points.
While Washington put up two field goals in the first quarter during the season opener, the Steelers scored a touchdown five minutes into the second quarter, and another at the end of the quarter. Combined, the team has trailed for a total of 10:46 this year.
“We’re willing to rush four, we’re willing to rush three, we’re willing to rush five, and maybe even sometimes six”, Butler said. “We just haven’t done it like we have in the past sometimes because we’ve got a pretty good offense, too”.
And when you have a good offense, you spend a lot of time playing with the lead, often early in the game, as he alluded to. Of course, the Steelers’ opponents over the course of the first two games also dictated the use of a greater number of players in coverage as well.