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'Coverage and pressure go together'

Keith Butler isn't necessarily trying to coordinate a defense specifically designed to beat New England.

But the idea will be to defend well enough to prevent the Steelers from having to go there this season.

"The standard is, and (head coach) Mike (Tomlin) has already said this and I agree with him 100 percent, we have to make the Super Bowl come through Pittsburgh," Butler confirmed on the second day of mandatory veteran minicamp. "We have to be able to play at home (in the postseason).

2017 minicamp is underway at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

"We had a lull in the season last year. We gave up some points and lost some games and got behind. We ended up getting a winning streak going there at the end that got us in the playoffs, got us in the AFC Championship (Game). We gotta take one more step."

Presumably, that would include doing a better job against the Patriots on Dec. 17 at Heinz Field than the Steelers were able to do in two shots against the eventual Super Bowl champions last season.

The Patriots beat the Steelers, 27-16, last Oct. 23 at Heinz.

And they beat the Steelers again, 36-17, in the AFC Championship Game in New England.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady went a combined 51-for-68 (75 percent), for 606 yards, with five touchdowns and no interceptions and was sacked twice in the two games.

In the first meeting, a lack of pressure led to the Steelers' undoing.

"If you look at our first game, he's sitting there, pumping the ball and looking all around," Butler said. "We had a lot of opportunities to sack him and we didn't.

"If we would have got some pressure on him and sacked him a couple times and get him cussing his dad-gum offensive linemen out, hey, man, it's a beautiful world for us."

In the rematch, the Steelers tried to play coverage.

"We did what we felt like we had to do against them in terms of where our defense was at the time," Butler said. "We knew at the end of last year we needed to develop more than just spot-drop and play zone. We knew that going into the end of the season, but we felt like, hey, that was the best opportunity that we had to try to get to the Super Bowl."

The plan is to play more man-to-man coverage this season, but that's just part of the plan.

"Right now we're going into training camp and it's going to help, I think, on both sides of the ball if we play a little bit more 'man,'" Butler said. "Our guys can get used to it, (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) can get used to looking at it, we can get used to playing it a little bit and, hopefully, we'll get better from it.

"Man-to-man, in conjunction with the other defenses that we play, will augment our defense and,  hopefully, we'll be better than we were last year."

At the throwing and receiving end of passes.

"Coverage and pressure go together, they always do," Butler said. "We have to be able to develop a four-man rush and not just blitz all the time.

"What we did last year is we ran a lot of false-blitzes that weren't really blitzes but appeared to be blitzes and played zone behind it. This year we have to be able to play conventional coverages with conventional people playing those coverages with conventional people rushing the passer. We have to be able to do that in order to advance defensively.

"We have to be able to put pressure on quarterbacks with just four men."

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