Steelers defensive coordinator's goal: Make Brady cuss out his offensive line

Steelers defensive coordinator's goal: Make Brady cuss out his offensive line

When Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler last saw Tom Brady, he was carving up the Pittsburgh secondary for 381 yards and three touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game on his way to a fifth Super Bowl title.

It wasn't much better for Butler's D in Week 7 in Pittsburgh (Brady was 19-for-26 with two TDs).

But the key number was zero. That's the number of sacks the Steelers had on Brady in both games. That's got to change, Butler told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

"If we would have gotten some pressure on him and sacked him a couple of times and get him to cuss his dadgum offensive linemen out, hey man, it's a beautiful world for us," Butler said.

Butler reiterated what Steelers corner Artie Burns and others had said earlier this month at OTAs - that Pittsburgh needs to move away from zone coverage against Brady and other elite QBs. 

"We have to be able to develop a four-man rush and not just blitz all the time," Butler said. "This year we have to be able to play conventional coverages with conventional people playing those coverages and conventional people rushing the passer. We’ve got to be able to do that in order to advance defensively, in my opinion."

Butler will get his chance to test the strategy this season in Week 15 when Brady and the Pats visit Pittsburgh. 

 

Steelers D moving away from zone after Brady cut them up in AFC title game?

Steelers D moving away from zone after Brady cut them up in AFC title game?

Were the Steelers so soundly beaten in last season's AFC Championship Game that they're considering a philosophical shift in the way they play defense? Sure sounds that way. 

Per an ESPN report from Steelers organized team activities, the club is hoping to move away from playing primarily zone coverages in order to give them a better shot at beating the Patriots and winning a championship. 

"That's the way to win a Super Bowl," corner Artie Burns told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

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Tom Brady carved up Steelers zones in January to move on to Super Bowl LI, passing for 384 yards and three touchdowns. The Steelers didn't play exclusively in zone, but when they did there were gaping holes that Brady found for big gains.

Chris Hogan caught nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, while Julian Edelman reeled in 118 receiving yards and a score. Nine different players caught passes for the Patriots that night at Gillette Stadium.

"It's always some opening in a zone defense," Burns told Fowler. "It's someone who missed a drop, or it's always some group in a zone defense. To be able to play man, to get a guy right in someone's chest with the pressure, it affects the quarterback a little bit."

Burns is in his second year with the Steelers and has the type of skill set that would seem to translate to more press-man coverage. Recently-added corners Coty Sensabaugh and rookie Cam Sutton also seem suited to match up against opposing receivers in man. 

The Steelers defense was known for its pressuring zone schemes for years under former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who is now running the defense in Tennessee. Current Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler, who has been with the team since 2003, carried over some of those same ideas when he took on his current position in 2015. 

Changing old habits, and finding personnel to fit a new approach, isn't usually a quick-and-easy process. But if the Steelers are able to shape-shift defensively this season, the Patriots should be ready for it by the time they visit Pittsburgh in Week 15.