Throughout the last decade the NFL has seen a shift in offensive philosophy. The goal is no longer to establish the run, and eventually open up the passing game, but now has turned to using the passing game to move the offense down the field.
You can’t blame the change of approach considering the rules put in place to protect the quarterback and receivers.
But even though the game might be changing doesn’t mean defense has been making such a drastic shift in overall philosophy. The athletes who are deployed, and the packages they use, might have changed, but for many, including Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator Keith Butler, the goal remains as tried and true as always.
Stop the run first.
This was always preached by Hall of Fame coach Dick LeBeau in his time with the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme. Take away the run, make a team one dimensional and then you can go into attack mode.
Fans shouldn’t forget Butler comes from the same coaching tree as Butler.
“A lot of people think it’s outdated, but I don’t.” Butler told media via Zoom Thursday. “Everybody in the league comes in thinking the passing game is bigger, more exciting, stuff like that for the NFL. They come in thinking they are going to throw the ball a little bit more, but if you look at the people who were successful last year, what did they do? You know, you look at Tennessee and that big back they have. That got them pretty deep in the playoffs. You look at Kansas City. Kansas City has a good throwing team. They do a great job at throwing the ball, but they did run the ball too. You look at the Ravens. They were probably the top-running team in the league, and look how far—they won our division, stuff like that.
“The run is still very, very important, and it’s still very, very important to us to stop the run and get them in situations where we know they are going to throw the football and then try to defend them in those circumstances.”
If the goal is to stop the run every week, the Steelers achieved that with flying colors. Against the Giants they held Giants’ All-Pro running back Saquon Barkley to 6 yards on 15 carries for a .4 yards per rush average.
No, that is not a typo.
The Steelers will have another tough test in Week 2 when the Denver Broncos and Melvin Gordon come to town. Stopping the run and forcing the game to be played out of Drew Lock’s hand is the Steelers’ best chance at moving their record from 1-0 to 2-0.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Broncos at Heinz Field this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.