In case you haven’t noticed and I’m sure you have, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has done a great job of getting after opposing quarterbacks over the course of their last four games. In fact, the defense has recorded 18 sacks since Week 11 and that’s the most in the NFL in the last four weeks.
During his Thursday session with the media, defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked what he attributes the better pass rush to.
“I think Bud Dupree’s a good freaking player,” Butler said. “I also like SD [Sean Davis], he’s coming off the edge in blitzes and stuff like that. He’s done a good job for us, so that helps. We started the game off with blitzes this past time and it was productive for us. Sometimes you hit on them and sometimes you don’t. Everybody says they come in bunches and they do, they do come in bunches and they have for us.”
Butler also revealed another potential reason for the recent improvement in the pass rush department and it’s related to numbers and young players.
“If ya’ll have noticed and I know you did, the first part of the season we were in a three-man rush a lot, so that’s part of having some young DBs develop for you,” Butler said. “So, I think we had to do that early in the season and not worry so much about how much pressure we got on somebody, but that we kept people low enough that we could win games.”
So, does this mean that Butler now has more confidence in his younger defensive backs?
“Well, they have more confidence in themselves, too,” Butler said. “And that matters more than I have confidence in them. So, they have confidence in what they’re doing and we’re still trying to put them in position to give them a chance to be successful.”
Butler also commented specifically on the play of his two young starting cornerbacks, Artie Burns and Ross Cockrell.
“Artie has done a good job of competing I think in practice as well as Ross Cockrell,” Butler said. “Both of those guys have gone up and tried to get on A.B. [Antonio Brown] and try to cover him as much as they can. And when you do that and you go against one of the best receivers in the league every day or every other day, you’re bound to get better and not get discouraged and continue to compete. And I think that’s what Artie’s done, he’s continued to compete and he’s only going to get better. Him and Ross, both, I think.”
Even though the Steelers’ defensive play has improved greatly during the second half of the season, Butler’s not ready to say that his unit has any kind of an identity.
“I dont make that stuff up,” Butler said. “I dont care. Our identity is the Super Bowl champion, that’s the only identity I want. So, how the defense does, or anything like that, the only thing that counts are wins and losses and continuing to win in this part of the season.”
Sunday, the Steelers will be looking for their fifth-consecutive win on the road against the Cincinatti Bengals. Being as the Bengals offense has already surrendered 36 sacks on the season, one would expect the Steelers defense to able to provide consistent pressure on their quarterback, Andy Dalton.