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Steelers coaching staff points to effort multiple times when describing the team defense

What is going on with the Steelers defense? The coaches responsible for the players try to answer those questions.

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 7 game, you were probably like me saying to yourself, or aloud, “What is going on with the defense?!”

Well, an article breaking all that is ailing the Pittsburgh defense could resemble more of a novel than one written for an online Steelers website. Nonetheless, as fans, we often lack the knowledge of the X’s and O’s to correctly diagram just what went wrong on any specific play. Sometimes it is obvious, other times we simply throw our hands up and yell.

Before the Steelers head into their Week 8 bye week, the organization typically has their full coaching staff available to the media. Finally, a chance to hear from coaches other than Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler regarding what is going on with the defense which couldn’t stop the pass to start the season, and now can’t stop the run.

Although Butler is ultimately the deciding factor in how the defense is assembled, scheme developed and put together, the other coaches input is certainly valuable. A simple search of will provide you with everything you need in regards to the other coaches, but after watching several videos, listening to audio and reading transcripts, there was one consistent message being relayed from the coaches to the players, all through the media.


Just look at some of these quotes:

“We gotta play harder. We gotta play more physical. I think we’re capable of playing harder and more physical, but I don’t think we quit by any means.” Keith Butler told Dustin Dopirak of

“I respect their opinion,” Defensive line coach John Mitchell said in regards to comments made by Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier after the team’s Week 7 loss to the New England Patriots. “That’s their opinion. My opinion might be a little different. … That’s the way they feel. I’m glad they feel that way. Maybe we’ll play a little harder.”

“We’re just getting knocked off the dadgum ball.” Butler added. “Some of it, we gotta be a lot more physical than we were. We’re trying to correct that and show it to everybody. I think these guys have enough pride and know the history of this franchise that we’ve always played the run pretty well. In the 14 years I’ve been here, we’ve always been pretty good playing the run. We intend to do that again this year.”

The common denominator in those three quotes from arguably the two most influential defensive coaches on the team? Effort.

“We gotta play harder.”

“Maybe we’ll play a little harder.”

“we gotta be a lot more physical than we were.”

While many debate the issues which exist between zone and man coverage schemes, and defensive fronts which vary from a 3-4 to a 4-3 to a 3-3-5, maybe the main issue the Steelers defense is facing isn’t so much scheme, but effort.

You may disagree, but it certainly seems the coaching staff believes that is where the main issue lies with this 2016 Steelers defense. If they are right, then it should be a relatively easy fix, but if the players continue on this current trend they will be sporting one of the worst statistical defenses in franchise history at the conclusion of the 2016 season.