The Pittsburgh Steelers’ run defense looked like a Thanksgiving backyard game when facing Jacksonville last year, where your uncle plays free safety and has the range of someone who just ate three pounds of turkey. They were run on early, often, for big plays and short touchdowns, as the Jaguars kicked the Steelers’ butt. Twice.
Sunday will absolutely be seen as a revenge game. But that feeling has to be guided by a plan. Sitting down with Bob Labriola for this weeks Coordinator’s Corner on SNR, Keith Butler explained what the defense must do to prevent history from repeating itself.
“The quarterback is a danger to run the ball,” Butler said. “He sees man coverage, he’s going to take off on you and stuff like that. We gotta make sure we try to contain him in the passing game. And then try to take care of the running game also.”
Bortles has rushed for 269 yards and a touchdown this season, putting him well on pace for his fifth straight 300+ yard season. In the playoff game last year against Pittsburgh, he ran for 35 yards, and in the regular season meetup, scrambled for a key third down conversion.
To an extent, Butler agreed the Steelers’ run defense has improved, but noted teams are simply throwing the football more. The numbers back that up. They’ve given up the fourth fewest rushing yards but are also facing the fourth fewest attempts. In relative terms, they’re tied in the top ten for yards per carry allowed at 4.1, a noticeable improvement from last year, where they gave up 4.4 per attempt and finished 27th.
Jacksonville’s run game will be bolstered by the return of Leonard Fournette, who came back against the Colts last week and found the end zone twice, once rushing, once receiving. Butler explained why stopping him won’t be easy.
“Very tough, hard nosed, good athlete. Can spin on you, can cut on you, can run you over. When I played, I hated guys who could run over you and run around you. You could load up on one of them but if he can do both of them, they got something a little extra. It required your best game. This guy is going to require our best game.”