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Thing of beauty, mindset, timing

Posted Jan 12, 2017

A first glance at what the three Steelers' coordinators are talking about this week.

Each week Steelers’ defensive coordinator Keith Butler, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and special teams coordinator Danny Smith share their insight in exclusive interviews that can be heard on SNR every Thursday beginning at 12 noon.

This version of Coordinators Corner will give you a sneak peak of what to expect each week, but this just touches the surface. Read what they have to say, but take my advice, listen every Thursday at 12 noon for the full interviews or check back there later in the day for the archived versions. It will be worth your time.

Thing of beauty: The Steelers offense opened last week’s game against the Dolphins with touchdowns on their first three drives, but they came in different fashions. On the first two drives it was all about the passing game, when Ben Roethlisberger opened the game completing 11-of-11 passes, including two touchdowns to Antonio Brown, one he broke for 50 yards, the other for 62 yards. Then on the next drive Le’Veon Bell ran the ball 10 times for 83 yards, including a one-yard touchdown. That third drive is one that offensive coordinator Todd Haley said was his favorite of his coaching career.

“It was a great start,” said Haley. “It came down to the guys executing perfectly. When you throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage and end up scoring a long touchdown, it’s a thing of beauty.  You are expecting to get positive yards, not necessarily break it all the way. But Jesse James did a great job, Cobi Hamilton and Antonio did a great job setting it up. In those conditions, with the wind blowing, for Ben, we were trying to give him easy completions and let guys make plays. The other one was a slant in space. It shows you don’t have to overcomplicate it all of the time.

“The third drive was probably my favorite drive ever in my 20 years in coaching. For the same guy to carry it 10 times, we never had third down. We talked about it the night before the game. I talked about it before we went to that series. I told them it would be early and got everybody and told them we would keep running it as long as you make it work. They made it work. It was a thing of beauty. I think our guys up front are getting better and better every week. It’s giving everybody confidence. Le’Veon is running very, very good. Some of the key guys in that, Chris Hubbard and David Johnson were a tremendous duo. Getting people on the ground. Really finishing strong. Jesse James did a great job. It’s something we have been getting stronger and stronger at. This time of year, playoff football, you have to be able to run it when they know you are going to run it.” 

Similar mindset: Last week the Steelers’ defense went into the Wild Card Game against the Dolphins motivated by a loss in Miami earlier this season. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler thinks Kansas City is going to have a similar mindset this week, as the Chiefs lost to the Steelers, 40-14, at Heinz Field in Week 4 of the season.

“How did we feel last week when we went in to play Miami, they are going to feel exactly the same way,” said Butler. “We are going to get their best game and we better be prepared for their best game, otherwise we won’t have a chance to win.

“That mentality is going to carry over for this weekend. They are going to have a great week of practice and be ready for us. When I played in Seattle, Kansas City was in our division. In my 10 years there we played there nine times and lost seven of them. It’s a very difficult place to win. The atmosphere there is going to be tilted to the Chiefs. We have to go in there and take one from them in their own place. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

Timing is everything: Timing is everything in football and it worked in the Steelers favor against the Dolphins. In the third quarter the Steelers were in field goal formation when Tony Lippett was called for a neutral zone infraction when he leaped over the line and came unabated to the kicker. The five yard penalty gave the Steelers a first down, and led to a Le’Veon Bell touchdown run. Special teams coordinator Danny Smith said you study those things with teams, but you never know when a play like that will happen, and timing is a key.

“You never know exactly when it’s going to come, but you have ideas about different things and different situations,” said Smith. “It’s all about timing. It really is. If your timing is right, it’s great. If your timing is bad, it’s bad. We won that particular play with their poor timing.

“You have to check alignment and things. It’s really a feel thing. There is a combination of things we do and a combination of things we practice in those scenarios and situations. It’s a chess match. It’s their call against our call. We won that call which was great. Three plays later we scored.”