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Steelers Film Room: Defense is winning the one-on-one battles

For years people have said that the Steelers needed new exotic schemes to be successful, but it's looking like all that was needed was better execution.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers' defense has made drastic improvements from the past two seasons and so far it shows in 2015 as the team ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in both points per game allowed and sacks.

Some may attribute this to the promotion of Keith Butler to the defensive coordinator position in the place of Dick LeBeau. LeBeau's legendary defense produced league leading numbers for years, but in his last three years with the team, Pittsburgh's defensive prowess declined. Many attributed the decrease in success to the possibility that teams had adjusted to LeBeau's schemes and were prepared for whatever Pittsburgh could throw at them.

What several Steelers, including Ryan Clark, proclaimed was that the problem was not in the scheming but the execution. While the arrival of Butler may signify to some that his plays are what are troubling offenses, it should not be overlooked that his players are winning their battles against other players in situations that weren't putting them in easy situations to create defensive splash plays.

First Play:

Here the Steelers change the line of scrimmage on the snap of the ball by engaging each of Rivers' blockers under their pads and driving them into him. Though Jarvis Jones records the sack, the result of this play is because of each pass rusher winning their battles and collapsing the pocket into Rivers.

Collective plays like this show that the Steelers' defenders are playing sound fundamental football up front.

Second Play:

Bud Dupree is making his presence felt on this defensive unit with his explosion off the ball. Here you can see him explode past the right tackle to get deep behind the formation and win the angle of attack. This is a straight one-on-one defensive play that the Steelers need. If he can continue to improve and manufacture more plays like this, the Steelers defense may have found themselves a star.

Third Play:

Blake's pick six made Monday night the Steelers' third consecutive game this season when a Pittsburgh defensive back made an interception. The Steelers' secondary does not need to be elite to win games and shut down wide receivers from start to finish, but if on occasion they make big plays like this when opponents make mistakes they can give the offense the best chance to win.

The Chargers had a similar late throw opportunity from Vick earlier in the game but missed. The legacy of good and bad teams are measured in their mistakes and when they take advantage of their opponents' mistakes. On Monday night, the Steelers' defense was good.


Winning on defense is about being stronger, faster and more technically sound than their opponents in order to win the one-on-one battles. Pittsburgh has been doing that more and more throughout this season and they got the best of the Chargers this past Monday.

We will keep looking for these types of plays to look at for our film room segments, but we hope that Pittsburgh makes it as easy to pick through the film as it was this week.