Film Room: Keith Butler Refuses To Keep It Vanilla In Opener

I know, I know. The talks of the offseason has been about those two magic words: man coverage. I promise we’ll get to that later in the week. But two things stuck out in last night’s Pittsburgh Steelers’ win. Keith Butler wasn’t keeping it vanilla and the fire zones which have become linked to the Steelers aren’t going away either.

We saw it in camp. And it paid off versus the New York Giants. Just a couple examples, though there are many we could point to.

Mike Hilton’s sack late in the second quarter was Dick LeBeau’s/Butler’s Sam Fire Zone. Slot corner and blitz side ILB blitz, the corner running under the blitz side OLB, who has contain. Backside OLB drops

It’s a little hard to tell because we don’t have access to the All-22 but the Steelers do seem to be playing man coverage behind it. In the clip, check Jacob Hagen (#42) carry the slot across the field.

The blitz works. The right guard crashes down on the three tech, the RT kicks to the LOLB, and the back is left with a two-on-one. He picks up the ILB, Steven Johnson. Hilton is scot-free to sack the quarterback.

Here’s an example of what it looks like in a regular season game, two years ago against the Cleveland Browns.

That’s probably the highlight here. But let’s look at the play before. Another LeBeau staple, a Fire X blitz. The inside linebackers trade A gaps on their blitz. Again, the goal to create confusion. On this play, L.J. Fort beats the running back with a swim move and gets pressure. QB’s throw is incomplete.


Finally, on the next-to-last play of the game, Butler sent his Sam Fire Zone again. It works again, only with the inside linebacker getting free. Could’ve been another sack had Johnson not stumbled. Quarterback is forced to heave it deep and it’s incomplete. Good play by Brian Allen (more on that in a later post).

As we’ve said before, it’s not just about the Steelers running man coverage all the time. It’s about being varied in coverages and blitzes. That’ll mean running tried and true fire zones, tweaking them a bit to add in a new flavor,


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