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'We gotta be a better team defense'

The Titans will be coming to Heinz Field on Sunday without running back Derrick Henry and, presumably, intending to run the ball, anyway.

"If I was looking at us, what would you do?" Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler wondered aloud this morning. "I'd run the ball, too."

The Vikings ran it 36 times and gained a season-high 242 yards rushing against the Steelers in a 36-28 victory on Dec. 9 in Minneapolis.

The eight big-play runs (10-plus yards) surrendered against Minnesota tied the Steelers' season high (Detroit also had eight).

The Steelers prepare for the Week 15 matchup against the Tennessee Titans

It was the "how" and the "how many" that contributed to the Steelers' demise while trying to defend against the Vikings' ground game, the scheme and the execution that at times invited gaping holes to exploit.

"Dadgum, I don't want to see those holes again if I don't have to," Butler said. "One or two of them were, we were in stuff we didn't want to be in those situations. And some of it was we didn't play it correctly. So it was a little bit of both, a little bit of coaching, a little bit of playing.

"I'll tell you this, I gotta do a better job coaching than what I've done in order for us to get better in terms of stopping the run, because I hate that crap. Two-hundred yards? How many times we ever done that since I've been here? It hasn't been a lot. It hasn't been a lot that our rush average is what it is right now. Not in the 19 years I've been here it hasn't been like that."

The Vikings game was the sixth straight in which the Steelers have surrendered at least 100 yards on the ground and the second this season in which the 200-yard plateau has been breached (229 on Nov. 14 in a 16-16 tie with Detroit).

The streak began after the Steelers had limited the Browns to 96 rushing yards in 15-10 victory on Oct. 31 in Cleveland.

Roles on defense against Tennessee will be what they were in Minnesota, for the most part, Butler said.

"The difference for us is Spillane, he's gonna be back," Butler added.

Inside linebacker Robert Spillane (knee) hasn't played since Nov. 28 at Cincinnati.

The Steelers are No. 27 in total defense (371.3 yards per game), No. 30 in run defense (139.5) and No. 32 in opponent yards per carry (5.0).

"Does it bother me?" Butler responded. "You dadgum right it bothers me. We're gonna do our best to make sure we don't do that crap no more."

The Steelers held three of their first seven opponents under 100 yards rushing and never gave up more than 144 yards in that span.

To get back to that, Butler maintained, the Steelers have to get back to the most basic element of run defense.

"All of us have gotta win our individual battles," he emphasized. "The old cliche about 11 guys doing what they're supposed to do is really true. It's not something coaches just use. It's something that's gotta happen for us. We gotta win the individual battles. And part of the individual battles is getting off blocks. How do you get off blocks? We use the same technique we've always used since I've been here. And it's worked for a lot of other people, it hasn't changed.

"We still gotta get off blocks and get to the ball and play in unison together. We gotta be a better team defense."