Now that the coaches tape is finally out, wanted to take a short look at a Dick LeBeau staple that Keith Butler has sprinkled in throughout his two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. When you think of a Fire Zone, the casual fan probably thinks about the “Fire X” blitz above all else.
It’s marked by the two inside linebackers blitzing and exchanging A gaps to stress the protection scheme.
And that’s exactly what went down to kick off the second quarter in Sunday’s win. And in hindsight, it was probably a huge play.
I’m battling the flu, think I made a deal with the devil for the Steelers to win (totally worth it) so let’s plow through things pretty quickly.
In LeBeau’s playbook, his fire zones most often play Cover 3 behind it. It looks like Butler has tweaked his a bit because his Fire X most commonly plays Cover 1.
Butler runs Sunday’s blitz vs the Ravens 2×2 set. You get man coverage to the two receiver side with safety Sean Davis rolled down. That’s the upside to his cornerback background, both in college and what the team did with him early in the year. He has the skillset to play inside when the moment calls for it instead of the team having to move Ross Cockrell to the slot, something the team is attempting to move away from.
Bud Dupree, the LOLB, matches the #2 tight end and carries him down the seam. Cover 1 (man-free) across the board with James Harrison responsible for the back. If he stays in protection, Harrison gets his eyes on the QB and feels for any routes coming into his zone.
Here’s a look at the coverage and an example from last year just to show how Butler has turned his Fire X into a man-blitz as opposed to zone.
To the fun stuff, the blitz itself. The inside linebackers switch A gaps with Ryan Shazier rushing first with Lawrence Timmons coming over the top.
But remember, any good blitz has to have balance and contain principles. Ricardo Mathews and Javon Hargrave have to keep contain and funnel the QB inside to where the pressure is designed.
Shazier draws the center eyes. The running back is carrying out his playfake responsibilities and isn’t able to pick up Timmons who is blitzing through the other A gap. It’s hindsight but as soon as the back sees the twist, he needs to abandon his playfake and just pick up the linebacker. Bailing on the playfake is better than getting your QB killed. Rookie teaching moment for Kenneth Dixon.
With the center picking up Shazier and the back unable to help, Timmons is in free to nail Joe Flacco.
Two plays later, the Ravens are forced to attempt a field goal. The snap is high, bobbled, and Baltimore comes away without any points. What a huge moment when you look back on it. Great call and execution by Butler.