We’ve spent a big chunk of the offseason discussing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dime defense. How Terrell Edmunds, Morgan Burnett, and Cam Sutton could fit. Mike Hilton took it an extra step, telling reporters there’s a chance Keith Butler could use seven in the secondary at the same time.
“It’s possible,” he said when asked if such a look was on the table. “Because we got guys who can play inside linebacker like Terrell Edmunds, Marcus Allen, big guys that can run.”
Hilton then included Morgan Burnett’s name, saying “he’s a guy who is versatile, you can put him in the post, he can go sideline-to-sideline.”
The “post” Hilton is referring to is the deep, center field safety. In dime groupings with 6 defensive backs on the field, the extra safety typically replaces the Buck linebacker, in this case Vince Williams, along with the nose tackle, who gets taken off in nickel with 5 DBs out there.
Another reason to believe the Steelers are willing and capable of using seven on the field. They had that package on the field for three snaps in 2017, removing both inside linebackers. Last year, Cam Sutton was used as that 7th defensive back. All three snaps came in Week 17, on third and long, but the Steelers gave up two first downs.
Here’s one example of it. Pittsburgh has two defensive linemen on the field and both outside linebackers.
It’s not a package you can expect the Steelers to lean on at all but could be gameplan-specific for certain matchups during the year. Or if no one sticks out at inside linebacker in the Bostic/Matkaevich battle, Burnett is capable of playing that ILB spot and making the calls, something he did at Green Bay.
The fact it’s even a question is a reminder of how heavily the Steelers have restocked their talent in the secondary, completely clearing house from how this unit looked even three years ago. There’s been an emphasis on athleticism and versatility, giving Butler options like running seven defensive backs out onto the field.