The Pittsburgh Steelers are striving to prevent teams from beating them deep this year. It’s not going great so far. They are scheming against that, but individual miscues, and failures in communication, are making it much more challenging. That falls on both the players’ ability to execute and on the coaches’ ability to prepare those player and to put them in situations to succeed—or at least not to fail.
One of the things we’ve seen less this year has been the defensive backs not re-routing pass-catchers. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked about this, and he said that it’s because they are spending more time in man coverage.
“There are times that we’re going to try and jam people, and we’re going to pick and choose when those times are”, he told reporters, via a transcript provided by the team’s media department. “A lot of people try and go deep on you when you do that. What we’re trying to do is make sure that we don’t give up big plays, and make people go the entire field to score if they can”.
As stated above, it hasn’t exactly been a smashing success. They have already surrendered six touchdown passes with no interceptions to show for it, and a number of them have been the result of deep passes. Tom Brady had two on them. Russell Wilson had another last week when he got D.K. Metcalf on safety Terrell Edmunds.
“That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to stop people from scoring. We’ve got to get out on third down”, Butler continued. “That was evident in the last part of the game last week. We’ve got to get out on third down. For us, that’s one of the biggest things right now”.
And that is, of course, another area in which they’ve struggled. While the Seahawks only actually converted five of 13 on third down, they got them in critical times, particularly on third and 16. It wasn’t even a conversion—Wilson scrambled for 15 yards—but it set up the opportunity for them to run out the clock.
On the San Francisco 49ers, whom he’s preparing to face, Butler said that “they’re going to try and run the ball and then go play action and stuff like that. Where they feed at is running the football, so we’ve got to stop the run. It’s all timing stuff. Stop the run and then get after the pass”.
The Seahawks put up 151 rushing yards against the Steelers on 33 attempts, 37 yards of which came as the result of a missed tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Still, Chris Carson was steady at 60 yards on 15 carries, though he did lose a fumble.
The Steelers know what they want to do. They also know what they have to do. The problem now is being able to do those things successfully. The defense gets its third crack at it today, complete with its third different starting free safety in as many games—and one who just got here.