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James Harrison shines light on the biggest change in Steelers defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has looked markedly different, but according to James Harrison the changes aren’t as drastic as some may believe.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve watched the past two Pittsburgh Steelers games you have noticed some dramatic changes on the defensive side of the ball.

11 sacks, over 20 quarterback pressures and a physicality which hasn’t been seen in the Steel City in some time. These changes don’t just happen overnight, and after a 4-game losing streak it isn’t as if Keith Butler simply flipped a switch and the defense started standing on their heads.

Some will cite the opponent, the winless Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts without their franchise quarterback, and some might suggest the team is rallying after losing their leader, Cameron Heyward, for the season with a pectoral injury.

Whatever the case may be, the Steelers defensive success was diagnosed after the game by James Harrison when he was interviewed by the NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala.

If you aren’t able to watch the video, I will sum up the near minute long interview into one sentence:

Players are doing their jobs.


Nothing fancy, nothing extravagant, nothing exotic. Just a bunch of guys doing what they are supposed to do. Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll’s entire coaching philosophy was just that — Do your job.

Whatever the cause of the defensive success is, the Steelers would be wise to continue to follow Harrison’s lead. In the aforementioned interview Harrison speaks of players staying in their gaps, and just focusing on the fundamentals.

There are times when players try to do too much, and by doing so hang their teammates out to dry. You saw this against the Dallas Cowboys when Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons were entirely too reckless with their gap integrity. You’ve seen this with the outside linebackers not being able to set the edge and funnel the play back to the interior. You’ve seen this with players like Artie Burns where over aggressive approaches equate to big plays for the opposition.

Maybe Harrison is right. Maybe the success is strictly just the players executing better, but to think the coaching staff, and the game plans, haven’t assisted in the team’s success is a very hasty opinion.

Since losing Heyward, you have seen Keith Butler, and the defensive coaching staff, get extremely creative with their scheme, personnel deployment and game plans. All have worked and have been a large part of the team’s overall success the past two weeks.

With that said, Harrison’s comments might be entirely accurate, and it would be good news for the Steelers defense moving forward. If the Steelers just do their job, all the rest will fall into place. After back-to-back wins the team should see the correlation to their defensive success an their disciplined play.