The objective for a defense that showed promise as last season progressed but eventually came unglued in the wake of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier’s season-ending injury in December is obvious:
Be better than the Steelers were in their 45-42 playoff loss to Jacksonville in January.
“We didn’t stop the run and we let ’em score too much,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler bluntly assessed during mandatory veteran minicamp.
The starting point upon reporting to training camp on July 25 at Saint Vincent College will be to work to become better than that, and then to go form there.
If Butler’s three-year track record as defensive coordinator is any indication, the Steelers will attack that objective through the application of a series of principles, concepts and philosophies.
It's the Defensive Gospel According to Butler.
And, as explained from week to week last season by Butler, it includes:
PHOTOS: 2018 minicamp - Day 3
The Steelers participate in the 2018 minicamp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
STOPPING THE RUN IS JOB ONE: “Same remedy we always try to use on defense, try to stop the run and get ’em in position where we know they’re going to throw the ball, and then try to rush the passer.”
RUN TO THE BALL: “What we always try to do and talk about it in meetings and stuff like that is make sure they’re running to the ball, everybody runs to the ball. Because we’re going to miss tackles, that happens. Hopefully we won’t miss too many tackles. If somebody misses a tackle, hopefully, we can run it down.”
MIX UP THE PASS RUSH: “I don’t think you can do the same thing all the time, you’ve heard me say that many, many times, or they’ll catch up with you and burn your butt. We gotta make sure we switch it up and give ourselves a chance to be successful.”
GET PRESSURE WITH FOUR WHENEVER POSSIBLE: “You can’t always blitz all the time. If you blitz all the time, they’re going pick it up and hurt you. You have to change it up. And you have to have a good enough four-man rush to be effective before your blitzing is effective. It’s a lot more effective if you can rush four, put pressure on the quarterback and play good coverage, and then every now and then blitz.”
GET SACKS FROM EVERYWHERE: “The only thing that matters to me is we get pressure on the quarterback. It really doesn’t matter to me who does it. We’re not looking to try to get anybody more sacks than the other. We’re just looking to try to put pressure on the quarterback the best way we can put pressure on the quarterback.”
WORK IN CONCERT: “Like I’ve always said, coverage and rush, they have to go together.”
NO BIG PLAYS ALLOWED: “We’re not going to win a world championships doing that. We have to take care of the splash plays, the chunk plays on the other side.”
TAKE AWAY THE BEST RECEIVER: “Try to take away what they do best and make ’em beat you left-handed.”
SAFETY FIRST: “Any time we’ve had the best defense in the league, we’ve always had safeties that could tackle, that were real good tacklers. We have to be able to do that from the safety position, because he’s usually the last guy. He’s got to either make the tackle or force (the ball-carrier) into a position where we can run him down. We have to tackle well.”