The Pittsburgh Steelers had an epic Hall of Fame weekend back in August, which featured the enshrinement of a number of their own. From safety Troy Polamalu and guard Alan Faneca to scout and executive Bill Nunn and former head coach Bill Cowher, it was a black and gold extravaganza. And it provided a great legacy-building moment for the franchise.
Cowher, who preceded current head coach Mike Tomlin now 15 years ago, jokingly suggested that he was hoping to call a couple of blitzes during the Hall of Fame Game. Tomlin took him literally, as he affirmed while speaking to Pat McAfee on Thursday.
“You know, it’s funny, you’re talking about BC. It was at the Hall of Fame Game. He came down on the sideline and I let him make a couple of defensive calls”, he told his host. “He marveled at the fact that I still named the defenses some of the names that they had when I got here. And I do that out of respect for the tradition that is the Pittsburgh Steelers”.
The Steelers have had great continuity on the defensive side of the ball. Tomlin, who came from a 4-3, Cover 2 background, deferred to Dick LeBeau as a great defensive mind, whom he retained as the team’s defensive coordinator, and that obviously proved to be the correct decision.
LeBeau would be succeeded by longtime linebackers coach Keith Butler several years ago, who remains in that role, and they largely retain the same foundation of that defense, albeit with modifications, but one thing in particular will never change, and that is when they bring the heat off the edge.
“When we’re bringing both outside linebackers, we call it dog rush. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd, it doesn’t matter if it’s James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, or now today, Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt”, Tomlin said.
“That’s something that they all share. They all love dog rush. They know what dog rush means. And that’s just some of the little things that we do here in Pittsburgh to capture the stuff that you can’t measure”.
And the Steelers let their dogs get after it more than they have in a long time. LeBeau’s zone coverages frequently necessitated that their starting outside linebackers play around a third of their time in coverage, if not more, but they have allowed Watt and company to get after the passer at a much higher rate in recent years, which is more in line with what the rest of the league is doing.
Change is inevitable, but the Steelers cherish the opportunity to retain some positions, even if it is in a name. But the dog rush right now is about as strong as it’s ever been, and in good hands, so they might as well call it what it’s always been called. I can hardly think of a more fitting name, anyway.