Obviously, you don’t get into coaching without accepting and taking on challenges. When Keith Butler was named to the Steelers’ Defensive Coordinator position, his reward was getting the defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots on the road in New England on opening day. Butler’s charges didn’t earn a victory for him but he can still say his defense gave up the fewest points of any team the Patriots have faced this season.
Now Butler and the Steelers face their most daunting challenge since opening night. The rival Cincinnati Bengals come to Western PA unbeaten and sport one of the league’s best offenses.
The Bengals currently rank third in total offense and third in points scored per game with over 30. The much-maligned Andy Dalton leads NFL starters in passer rating with a number of 116.1 and that’s higher than both Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. While most Steelers’ fans are of the mind that Dalton will eventually “go Dalton” and throw some picks and take some sacks but Keith Butler can’t afford to bank on that.
What’s working for the Bengals’ offense is balance. They are currently 11th in rushing and are fifth in passing. Nothing makes defending an offense more difficult than balance so look for Butler to dial up a tried and true tactic of his mentor Dick LeBeau. Butler will no doubt look to make the Bengals one-dimensional by taking away the run. Therefore putting the pressure on Andy Dalton to beat the Steelers with his arm and that’s something he hasn’t always been able to do.
The task for Butler will only get more difficult if in fact Stephon Tuitt and/or William Gay can’t play on Sunday. At this time, both would be considered questionable. The absence of Tuitt was evident against both the run and the pass this past Sunday. Gay is the team’s most consistent corner and if he can’t go that makes covering A.J. Green even more strenuous.
I’m curious to see how Butler chooses to attack the Bengals’ offense. He’s been very aggressive on third down with blitzes from secondary players. If that trend continues, the pass rush must get to Dalton. He has too many weapons at his disposal to leave uncovered for any length of time.
This game will not define Butler as a coordinator but it can go a long ways towards proving what he can come up with for such a difficult opponent.
Photo courtesy steelers.com