Over the past few weeks, the Steelers have been very vanilla in their defensive assignments. Their typical ILB blitzes were shut down, aside from a few plays, and they largely ran cover 3 and cover 6 based concepts. It seemed to work against the Buccaneers, but against the Ravens, they knew it was coming and they picked it apart with simple routes to beat cover 3, like smash concepts and posts. They also used a variety of wheel routes and TE seams which were open all night. The Falcons are great at all those concepts, and their particular favorite, the levels concept, which destroys cover 3 all day.
So, how does Keith Butler respond? He starts using cover 2 and cover 1 based concepts with largely man coverage across the board. The results speak for themselves. Butler’s change in game plan largely allowed the Steelers to get pressure and as such, allowed the defensive backs to play aggressive. These Steelers DBs play at their best when they play aggressive, and Artie Burns only gave up 3 receptions for 41 yards on 7 targets, showing even he benefited from this game plan.
How did Keith Butler plan to allow his Defensive Backs to be aggressive and press the likes of Julio Jones? He used a variety of stunts. A stunt or a twist can simply be defined as two defensive players switching assignments or gaps. It is used to create pressure and confuse the Offensive Linemen. Typically a LB, NB, or S with come down and blitz in the gap that was vacated and opened up, with the thought of getting pressure from the blitzing party.
Keith Butler employed that a few times, as we can see here on L.J. Fort’s sack.
How the #Steelers got pressure on the Falcons. A thread:— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018
First up, is a stunt from Cam Heyward. Comes from the B gap to the A gap and Fort comes straight through B gap to make the sack. They used stunts a ton this game and left their DBs with only Davis for help over the top. pic.twitter.com/UEASwt2Hvi
Before the snap, you can see the C gap is completely vacated of any bodies. Usually, that is a prime indication there is a stunt coming. That big gap is an indication there will be a stunt, and in addition to that, if Heyward were over in the C next to Dupree, you could expect to see Dupree skip inside on an inside stunt. Normally, Heyward is right in between the B and C gaps as a 3 technique, but instead he is lined up as a 2i. He then switches assignments over as he crosses into the A gap, and Fort is able to come crashing down into the vacated B gap and get an easy sack. Notice how the close and down the DBs are too, a clear indication of a blitz. Classic schematic things, but a great adjustment from last week’s struggles by Keith Butler.
They did this more than once too.
Keith Butler loved stunts this week. Tuitt and Chickillo leave a clear gap over the C gap which indicates a stunt. Matakevich comes through there and they get pressure on Ryan. You see the downside as Sensabaugh cannot get over there through the traffic in man. pic.twitter.com/ZWyBcu5RN4— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018
The same thing applies with this play, as it is the same stunt, but simply on the other side. As for why we have Tyler Matakevich running the stunt, I have no clue. Butler had some nice adjustments, but this is something I cannot defend. This has to be Fort or Matthew Thomas running this stunt. Or even Bud Dupree, but using Matakevich as a blitzer is never a great idea, but it works to get pressure.
You can see the risk of this. Ryan realized that this was gonna be a stunt, and thus man coverage, and changed Ridley’s route to a drag, which is a man coverage killer. Sensabaugh gets caught up in all that traffic and has nowhere to go. He should get over there faster, but there is not much you can do about this. Just good pre-snap processing by Matt Ryan. As for the inside stunts, Keith Butler had those in his arsenal too, and it netted T.J. Watt a sack.
This is different. The linemen sell the stretch PA and OL go with it except TJ Watt. Has a beautiful inside twist and they just were not expecting it. Good film review, he was expecting it. pic.twitter.com/mFW7uDjaXR— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018
The DL runs with the stretch Play Action so it is somewhat tough to identify this as a stunt, but Heyward runs with the guard and Watt takes an inside jab step to give it away. The tackle never even expected it, and that is why he was so caught off guard. Watt knew how to adjust to the play, which makes this a classic case of great film study. Another good schematic planning by Keith Butler, who really had a nicely coached game this week.
Now, while it was key that stunts on the Defensive Line work, I also like Linebacker and Nickel Corner stunts. Keith Butler did this with L.J. Fort and Mike Hilton, which allowed Hilton to fly inside, and if he does not slip, who knows what happens.
Straight up 6 man blitz. Fort comes down and frees up Hilton, Watt gets a nice pressure by beating Schreader inside. If Hilton doesn't slip who knows what happens, but a great tackle by Edmunds who had to be in man with 6 blitzing. pic.twitter.com/MMy3QBjAP8— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018
T.J. Watt was everywhere Sunday and he showed up yet again. I don’t know about you, but it seems every time the tape rolls, T.J. Watt was the source of some pressure. It forces Ryan to get rid of the ball and even if Tevin Coleman is open on that drag against Terrell Edmunds, the rookie makes a fantastic tackle. He had a great game against the Falcons.
However, the biggest difference this week was that the Steelers created pressure on four-man rushes. The Steelers pressure numbers before this week were not bad, but they were putrid on 4-man rushes. They were 29th in the league in pressure on strict 4-man rushes. Not that ideal for the pass rush if I would say so. However, they certainly will be skyrocketing after this game.
Goodness Cam Heyward. We know Cam can do this a lot, but he has been far too quiet for the first few weeks of this season. He needs to pick it up, but he just bull rushes Alex Mack straight into the dirt. He wins leverage and uses his legs to drive straight through Mack and it results in a great sack. In addition, T.J. Watt bends around the edge as he sets his hips to the outside which causes the Right Tackle to have to re-position his hands. This is a great combination of pressure fans want to see more often.
As for other examples, we have another Cam Heyward pressure, but with some help from an unlikely source.....Bud Dupree!
It's a Bud Dupree pressure! Good spin to move inside and get Ryan moving out of that pocket, and good penetration by the DL. Heck of a play by Julio. pic.twitter.com/XWf6KEBt3U— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018
Heyward gets the inside penetration and Bud Dupree gets the nice spin move to force Matt Ryan out of the pocket and cause him to run. T.J. Watt then comes down to force Ryan to throw the ball and honestly it is completed simply because Julio Jones boxes out everyone there. It is a great play by him, but this play was well executed by the Steelers, but it is just difficult to stop Julio Jones, which Joe Haden did for just about the whole game.
This last one might just be my favorite, because Butler tries to stunt and get an open blitz, but it does not work. But it does not matter, because T.J. Watt simply baptizes Ryan Schreader by bending around that edge so beautifully.
6 man blitz quite literally does not work, but TJ Watt baptizes Ryan Schraeder, so its all good and well here. Watt had an insane game, deserves the AFCDPOW honor. pic.twitter.com/LUk8w7ChZN— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018
Watt continued his insane game and although this did not work, it is another testament to creating pressure outside of schemed stunts. What a fantastic play, and I hope this continues.
We all know Keith Butler needs more than just one good game to be saved from the Fire Butler campaign, but this is a great step. Butler called a great game and schemed around the weaknesses from the Baltimore game well.
Let’s see how he tries to complicate offenses even more as they begin to pick up on this, he will have to mix in cover 3 and cover 6 calls and not just run strictly man based assignments for the game. He could even get exotic and go cover 0, but he will have to trust Artie Burns for that to happen.