Sometimes the most difficult things to accept are the most obvious. Yet, I get the feeling some out there in the Steeler Nation are struggling to accept the fact that this defense is not going to be the one they have come to expect.
The reality of the situation is that Dick LeBeau is gone. As tough as it was for many to believe this, it’s fact and also gone with him is a defense that favored veterans and had become stale and predictable. In other words, what you are going to see in 2015 is not your father’s defense.
There was little to take from Keith Butler’s debut as the Defensive Coordinator in the Hall of Fame Game Sunday night to support my argument. The defense was relatively “vanilla” with a few exceptions but that’s not even where the changes begin.
You already know by now that this defense will use more Cover-2 formations than ever before. Steelers’ Head Coach Mike Tomlin has personally put his hands on this by working with the secondary on Cover-2 techniques. But the changes don’t end there.
Butler has put an emphasis on allowing his defensive linemen and linebackers to get more one-on-one battles. Believe it or not, that actually benefited Cam Thomas Sunday night. Dare I say he looked pretty decent?
But the biggest change you will be seeing that you didn’t see under LeBeau has to do with youth. Mike Tomlin has grown tired of not having speed on the field and that is something he and Butler are addressing. I thought it was very apparent against the Vikings just how much faster the Steelers’ defense looked and that was without some potential starters.
Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell did not play nor did Jarvis Jones.
The overall equation for what Tomlin and Butler want is really quite simple; more speed + more aggressiveness = turnovers and pressure.
The one thing you saw on Sunday night to illustrate that was the bringing of pressure off the corner, especially with Brandon Boykin. You also saw guys getting to the football with urgency and speed that I haven’t seen in recent years.
It was only natural for the Steelers to get faster with more veterans heading off to pasture but it has been abundantly clear that getting faster was important to Tomlin. Throw in this factor, the greater presence of the Cover-2 and more aggression from Butler’s play-calling and you’ve got yourself a new way of doing things on the defensive side of the ball.