Keith Butler has had a lot in his bag of tricks during his time in Pittsburgh. His Storm Fire Zone, though, might be his most popular, and effective blitz concept. It produced another splash play against the Miami Dolphins yesterday afternoon.
The Dolphins come out in a 2×2 set early in the third quarter. They align both receivers to the same side, the Z and the X, in what Dick LeBeau called a “slot set” in his playbook.
And the formation checks to the Steelers Storm Blitz, as it outlines in LeBeau’s playbook.
But the Dolphins motion the #2 receiver across the formation into a 3×1 set. That changes the strength of the formation and causes Mike Mitchell to rotate down and Jordan Dangerfield to be the single high safety.
The blitz now comes from Mitchell. The away side linebacker, Bud Dupree, drops into coverage with basically every other blitzer – the linemen and blitz side linebacker – shooting down a gap to contain the quarterback and provide rush lane balance. Exception here is a twist by the defensive linemen, taking the other’s A gap.
Butler has tweaked things to have one of the linemen key the back and cover him if he releases.
The Dolphins screw up the protection, they had a tough time all day, with the back and the tight end picking up the C gap rusher, James Harrison. It leaves Mitchell free off the edge.
And Mitchell finishes the play. Sack, forced fumble on Matt Moore, with L.T. Walton recovering it. If you’re wondering, the coverage is supposed to be trap, with the blitz side trapping, corner reading 2 to 1, and the safety on the numbers to his side to provide support over the tap. Man coverage to the away side.
But here, the Dolphins are using just a two man route, so it basically becomes Cover 1, man free.
There is a check in LeBeau’s playbook to roll to standard Cover 3 if #2 has width outside the D gap, so a normal slot receiver, for example, though I don’t know if I’ve seen Butler check to it. But something to keep in mind.
We’ve seen this call work time and time again. Here it is against the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this season, resulting in a Jarvis Jones pick.
Or Ross Cockrell’s interception last season against the Baltimore Ravens.
And several examples we could go on and on about. It’s one of Butler’s most reliable and best calls. And probably one we see again Sunday.