It’s easy to talk a big game. It’s another matter entirely when it comes to playing a big game. The Pittsburgh Steelers have talked a lot all offseason about the desire to become a defense, or specifically a secondary, that was capable of being more versatile in their coverages, but this training camp has not been the smoothest experimental process in figuring out if that is in the cards this year.
But don’t take my word for it; take the coaches’ words.
Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke to defensive coordinator Keith Butler to get an update on a variety of things, but one of the main things that they talked about was what they have been able to accomplish in terms of getting a look at different types of coverages, and it has not been easy.
“We played some matchup zones”, he told the reporter when asked. “We played some single high man. We didn’t play what we call two-man under. That’s something we have to see what we can do. We have to see if our safeties are good enough, if our corners are good enough and if our linebackers are good enough to cover the tight ends and backs”.
What exactly has been the problem? Quite simply, they have not had the personnel on the field to get the looks that they have wanted. Consider, for example, the number of important pieces that have been sidelined at different periods of time and for different lengths.
Free safety Mike Mitchell has missed most of training camp already since landing on somebody’s foot during a seven shots exercise, if I recall correctly. It’s kind of hard to run your coverages when you lack one of the core pieces of communication in that coverage.
Starting mack linebacker Ryan Shazier has also missed a fair amount of time now, and it’s frankly hard to see how your new starting pair of inside linebackers can work together when one of them isn’t on the field. Vince Williams missed a couple of practices as well.
Others, too, have been missing as well, of course, including Sean Davis and Artie Burns. So Butler’s job hasn’t been easy. “Our young guys, we have to see what we have in the secondary”, he told Fittipaldo.
“We have to get those guys back and see what we can do in camp in terms of the coverages we plan on playing. I don’t know what we can do. I don’t know about Cam Sutton. I don’t know about him. I don’t know about Senquez Golson. I have an idea of Mike [Hilton]. He’s playing well for us”.
He went on to say that he doesn’t want his guys this year to have to have a baptism by fire. He want his unit to be on the field and doing what he will ask them to do now before they have to do it in a game that counts. But the clock is ticking, and they need to start getting their pieces back.