One of the biggest topics for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season, at least in terms of fan interest, has been the indications that have dripped our here and there that the intention on the defensive side of the ball is to play more in man coverage than they have in years past. It’s a move that many fans have been impatiently waiting to see.
Keith Butler was recently asked about playing man coverage this year during a radio spot on 93.7 The Fan, and why we should believe that they will be better-equipped to do it this year, with roughly the same personnel that was on-hand a year ago.
“Rush and coverage go together”, he began, “so our rush, if it’s up to par, then our man coverage will be better than it was last year”. There are, of course, parallel hopes that the Steelers will be better-equipped to rush the passer this year.
“We’re emphasizing it more this year in training camp”, Butler said of playing in man coverage. “We want to run it as much as we can, get as many reps as we can and then try to build on that and get better as we watch the film and coach them up a little bit”.
After that, he voluntarily waded into another popular topic this offseason, which has gone hand-in-hand with playing more man coverage: beating the Patriots. So for those of you who have focused your offseason on the hopes of playing more man coverage to beat New England, you will enjoy this next segment.
“We can’t always play zone, especially against people like the Patriots”, Butler told his hosts. “You look at the people who have beaten the Patriots in the past and a lot of them played man-to-man. I think the last time we beat them [in 2011] we were playing a lot of man-to-man coverage”.
That was during Cortez Allen’s rookie season, with Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis serving as the outside cornerbacks in the nickel defense. They used Allen in the dime defense in order to counter the Patriots’ star tight end.
“We were able to match up on Gronk and some of their small receivers”, the defensive coordinator reminded. “Those receivers do a good job of working the holes in zone defense and Brady does a good job of getting them the ball. So we’ve got to be able to change up and make Brady read the coverages and not show him the same thing all the time, if we are to beat them”.
But for those who think that too much has been made of beating only New England, he didn’t forget about you, either. He said that the same thing applies to “everybody else we play. We’ve got to win our division. Our division is going to be tough again this year”.
“Baltimore has always given us problems”, he said. And he’s not wrong. “We’ve got some problems of our own trying to get through our division and win our division, and then look at the other people in our conference”.