How bad was the play of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense last weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs? It was so bad that the Chiefs Week 3 opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, probably didn’t learn very much from the Steelers defense when it comes to their own defense looking at ways to properly defend the Kansas City passing game.
During a recent session with the 49ers media, San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman was asked what one of the first steps is in trying to figure out how to slow down Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Sherman’s response was as straightforward as they come and matches the all-22 tape from the Steelers loss to the Chiefs to boot.
“You just see what the defense is doing,” Sherman said. “Are they playing sound? Are they playing efficient or are there a ton of busts? There were a lot of busts in the Pittsburgh game, a lot of guys out of position. It looks like they just tried to do too much. They had a bunch of checks and anytime you try to scheme up for every single play you’re going to get, it’s going to be tough and I think they made it way too complicated. And he [Mahomes] made a great plays and great throws, but there were a lot of guys running scot-free, butt-naked wide-open and you’ve got to play more sound than it.’
During his recent sit-down interview with Bob Labriola of steelers.com, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler attempted to once again explain what went wrong with his unit this past Sunday at Heinz Field against the Chiefs and his response closely matched Sherman’s assessment of what he observed in his tape study.
“I mean, we got caught a couple of times and people were playing different things,” Butler told Labriola. “I think sometimes we tried to do too much as players instead of just doing their job and trusting the guy next to him to do his job. And if we do that then we play good football. When we don’t do that is when we don’t play good football and I think we did a little bit too much of that in the Kansas City game.”
We’ve heard Butler talk quite a bit over the past few seasons about defensive players trying to do too much at times during games in addition to him telling us how poor communication on the field has been at times. You would think with both of those things happening so much in past seasons that such issues would be few and far between at this point. Sadly, they’re not and this past week we were told the defense will be simplified more in effort to help solve those woes moving forward.
Butler was later asked by Labriola later during the interview if he ever gets the idea at times that maybe things get too complicated at times.
“Always, always, as a coach, I mean, yeah,” Butler said. “I played for 10 years, I had to make all those calls and all that stuff but there’s some things you need to do, you have to do, in terms of trying to get into the best defense that you possibly can get in and if your players can handle it. And most of the time our players can handle it. And I’m not saying they didn’t handle it in Kansas City, I think we made some mistakes where we all weren’t on the same page all the time.
“My thing with those guys at the time was, that’s fine, or they hit something on us and then we try to do too much. We try to compensate for a bad part or a deficiency in the defense instead of just playing the defense like you’re supposed to play it and doing what you’re supposed to do so that the guy next to you can count on you being in a position where you should be when you should be. So, that’s the biggest thing for us.”
Next up for the Steelers defense is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense Monday night and that unit is led by their quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has already thrown for 819 yards and 8 touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. He also has some great players to throw to in wide receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and tight end O.J. Howard.
“Oh, he’s dad-gum playing well, man,” Butler said of Fitzpatrick’s hot start to the season “He is very confident in what he’s doing, he doesn’t make mistakes. he’s got an idea what the mismatches are in all the defenses and when he hits his back foot, he lets the ball go. He’s making decisions and he’s confident in the decisions he’s making and most of the decisions he’s making are right.”
Butler also gave a quick rundown of the Buccaneers receiving threats his defense will attempt to slow down Monday night in Tampa.
“Well, Evans is a big guy, he’s 6-4, 230 pounds, Butler said. “He looks like a dad-gum tight end, but he’s not, he’s a big wide receiver, he’s a possession guy. They work the weak side with him. DeSean Jackson can run. At some point in time early in the game they’re going to try to throw a bomb down the field with him, which they should, they’re trying to stretch the grass with him. He can outrun a lot of people and they going to use that with him. And those two guys right there are big to handle. The tight end, big fella, 6-5, 250 pounds, runs a 4.6, or 4.5. He’s a good size match up for, for your DBs and your linebackers and stuff like that.”
That big Buccaneers tight end that Butler referenced is of course Howard, a former first-round draft pick out of Alabama. The Steelers defense certainly needs to do a better job against him Monday night than they did against Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce last Sunday as he torched Butler’s to the tune of 7 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He described what happened on both of those touchdown receptions immediately after the game was over and it certainly didn’t paint the Steelers defense in a positive light.
“They ran cover two on both my touchdowns, and sure enough I’m open up in the seam,” Kelce said.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) September 21, 2018