Heading into last Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler had one major goal for his unit and he talked about it this week during his sit-down with Missi Mathews of steelers.com.
“The thing that we tried to emphasis this week was be better in the second half than we’ve been, because we’ve given up a lot of garbage yards and points and stuff like that,” said Butler. “So, we want to be better in the second half and it just so happened that we were better in the second half, but we didn’t want that first half the way it was either. If we can put together two halves, we’ll be ok.”
As Butler pointed out, the Steelers defense didn’t play overly great in the first half against the Bengals and especially against the run. So, what changed in the second half against the Bengals that led to Butler’s defense pitching a shutout in the final 30 minutes in Cincinnati?
“I think they calmed down a little bit, but I think more than anything else, we stopped the run,” said Butler. “We stopped them from running the football. We tightened the front up just a little bit. We changed a little bit in terms of how wide we were in terms of our alignment to try to make sure that they didn’t have a lot of holes to run in to put them in passing situations. We did, and we got out. And if you want to know really the biggest difference is our offense held the ball.”
While the Steelers offense did indeed possess the football for a good portion of the second half of that game, the Bengals offense did have four possessions of their own just the same and Butler’s defense did their job by only allowing 38 total yards. In fact, the Bengals offense only ran 19 total plays during the second half.
Butler made it clear to Matthews what the negative things were on Sunday that he didn’t like and it’s easy to guess what they were.
“Penalties were probably the biggest problem that we had,” said Butler. “We had a couple, one on Artie [Burns] was a pass interference. He kind of lost his receiver, he tried to catch him, he didn’t look back for the ball as a consequence it was interference. The first third down, we had a chance to get the quarterback and [Stephon] Tuitt gets his facemask and it’s a legitimate call and twisted his knee and ankle at the same time. So, it wasn’t a good play for us.
“And a couple of those, those two penalties right there, were part of the points that they got so we’ve got to make sure that we keep from penalizing ourselves. It’s hard enough to play in the NFL without penalizing yourself.”
Butler has of course now turned his attention to the upcoming Christmas night game against the Baltimore Ravens and he’s looking forward to the AFC North matchup.
“If you don’t get excited about this game, you don’t get excited about football in general, Butler said. “It’s very easy to get excited about this game. This time of year, to me as a player and as a coach, is the most fun time of the year because it’s the most competitive time of the year.
“I’ve always said that the intensity level goes up. If you’re a rookie in the NFL, you come into training camp and the intensity level that you’re used to is up a little bit more. And then the preseason starts and it goes up a little bit more. And then the regular season starts and it goes up a little bit more. And then at the stretch run, with about four or five more games left on your schedule, then everything gets jumped up a little bit and if you don’t jump up with it, you’re going to be left behind.
Here’s to the Steelers defense jumping up a little bit more Christmas night at Heinz Field and not getting left behind by the Ravens offense.