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Communication breakdown

The Chiefs are capable of inflicting damage and they did so against the Steelers, but the Steelers also made it too easy on the Chiefs.

"We knew they were a good football team but we made them better than maybe they were," defensive coordinator Keith Butler assessed. "Not that we had a bunch of 'M-Es' (mental errors) in the game but we did have some guys running free a couple times.

"You saw the guy go down the middle, that was lack of communication on the field. We gotta do a better job of that."

The reference was to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on what became a 25-yard touchdown reception, one of two scoring catches for Kelce in Kansas City's 42-37 victory last Sunday.

It's a problem the Steelers' defense will be working to solve beyond Monday night's game at Tampa Bay.

"It's not a quick fix," Butler maintained. "It's a long-term fix. I think you have to have them in a place where they're very confident in what they're doing.

"If they're not confident what they're doing, then they're going to be slower to react. If they're slower to react, then you're not going to play very good defense."

Communication had been much less of an issue in the regular-season opener, a 21-21 tie on Sept. 9 at Cleveland.

The Browns were held to 150 yards passing, amassed 327 total net yards and scored three touchdowns, one on a one-play drive that started at the Steelers' 1-yard line following a fumble by running back James Conner.

The Chiefs scored three touchdowns before the first quarter had ended at Heinz Field, including one on a two-play, 10-yard drive that followed a 48-yard punt return. Kansas City ended up with 322 passing yards, 449 total net yards and passed for six TDs.

"Some days it's ironed out, some days it isn't," Butler said. "Some days you're communicating the same things and sometimes you're not."

The variables included opponents, how the Steelers are being attacked and how they're lining up based on situation, scheme and availability.

The answer has to start with individual and collective trust.

"They hit a play on us here and there and then we'll try to over-compensate instead of doing our job and counting on each other to be where we should be," Butler said. "We weren't.

"We have a quarterback (a defensive signal-caller, inside linebacker Vince Williams) on the team. We all have to play what he's playing. Even if he's wrong, we all gotta be wrong. We'll all be right if we do that. It makes sense to our guys, if they're all playing the same defense we're good."

That necessary trust and cohesion can be achieved through a thorough understanding of what it is the defense is trying to accomplish and how.

Butler is holding the defensive staff accountable for that as well as the players.

"We have to do a better job as coaches of teaching our guys the little idiosyncrasies of the defenses, in other words the details of the defense," he said. "We have to do a better job of coaching that."