In the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday loss to the New England Patriots safety Sean Davis had the tough task of covering tight end Rob Gronkowski for most of the game. While Davis did an admiral job of helping to hold Gronkowski relatively in check in the first half to the tune of two receptions for 33 yards, it was a different story in the second half and especially during the Patriots final scoring possession.
On Thursday, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler held his weekly session with the media and during it he was asked to give an evaluation of how Davis played Sunday against Gronkowski, who finished Sunday’s game with 9 receptions for 168 yards in addition to a two-point conversion reception.
“He did as much as he could, I think,” Butler said. “In terms of us evaluating our players and stuff like that, we try to keep that in-house. We tried to help him. There are some technical things and he knows this, and we coached it before and after that he has got to take care of.”
Even in defeat, Butler believes he put together a good defensive game plan Sunday
“We didn’t execute sometimes,” Butler said. “Sometimes we did in critical situations. We didn’t execute a couple of times and they got us. And he’s [Gronkowski] a good player. Him and [Tom] Brady have been doing this a long time. We had a plan, I thought the plan was good, I thought it was effective for the most part of the game. We certainly didn’t do it at the end and we should have. That’s us coaches, too, we have to make sure we get that stuff coached up.”
Unfortunately for the Steelers, the Tom Brady to Gronkowski connection really heated up late in the fourth quarter in what ultimately would be the Patriots game-winning drive. During that 5 play, 77 yard drive that started with 2:06 remaining in the game, Gronkowski had 69 receiving yards on three consecutive receptions. On Thursday, Butler was asked if he changed things up scheme-wise during that final drive
“No, not really,” he said. “We did what we did the whole game and there is a lot of things to explain about it. There are a lot of technical things that have to go into the explanation and I think y’all asked Mike [Tomlin] the same thing. And it’s a lot of layers there to try to explain and I don’t think it would be cohesive or understandable.”
So, should the Steelers ultimately meet the Patriots again in the playoffs, will Butler be forced to go back to the drawing board to attempt to devise a better way of limiting Gronkowski for an entire game?
“I think you always go back to the drawing board every time you play,” Butler said. “You have to do something a little bit different. You do the same thing people would kill you, much less [Tom] Brady and him [Gronkowski]. They’ll nail your butt to the wall, so you better have something a little bit different next time we play them. I’m sure we will.”
Here’s to hoping we’ll see a rematch of the Week 15 game a month or so from now only with a different outcome.
“I think we’ll be better next time we play them,” Butler said.