As the Pittsburgh Steelers get one step closer to training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, many fans are curious about the team's defense in 2015. With Keith Butler now the defensive coordinator, will his defense be different, or simply Dick LeBeau's scheme 2.0? After Butler finally spoke with the media Thursday following their final Organized Team Activity (OTAs), there weren't many definitive answers regarding those burning questions.
A coordinator's job isn't easy, and Butler will certainly realize that throughout the course of the 2015 season. What makes the job so difficult? It isn't just about making the play calls which can win or lose the game, but about the players on the field.
Some think the question of scheme vs. players in the scheme is similar to the "What came first, the chicken or the egg" quandary. I couldn't disagree more.
Look back to when Todd Haley was brought in as the team's offensive coordinator. Not only were fans disgusted with the hire, they weren't enjoying anything related to Haley and his offense. He and Ben Roethlisberger reportedly didn't get along, the offense looked stale at times and the team ultimately stumbled to an 8-8 season. Fans longed for the days of Bruce Arians and the #FireHaley hashtags became a constant on Twitter and Facebook before, during and after every game.
Fast forward to the 2015 offseason, and you don't see many of those #FireHaley hashtags anymore. In fact, most fans are pleasantly surprised with the offense heading into next season. So, what changed? He and Roethlisberger are getting along better, but both refute the rift was ever anything more than a feeling-out period. The offense hasn't changed, but what has changed are the players in the system.
The Steelers now have an anchor at left tackle in Kelvin Beachum and have watched the entire offensive line become a cohesive unit not only capable of keeping Roethlisberger upright, but also of paving the way for a running game. Speaking of a running game, think the emergence of Le'Veon Bell has something to do with this offense working to its fullest capabilities? You'd be lying if you disagreed with me. Are Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant a part of why fans are suddenly okay with Haley making the play calls? You bet.
The point is the scheme didn't change, but the players did. Players improved, new players were added and the offense is now reaping the benefits of such maturation.
The same is happening on the defensive side of the ball. Butler could have the perfect blitz with the perfect scheme, but if the players can't execute the play, it is worthless. With that sentiment out of the way, the question becomes whether the Steelers have the players on the defensive side of the ball to win football games. Butler likes what he sees at OTAs thus far, but also admits you won't be able to know anything of substance until you play some real football.
The Steelers' defense is certainly the main debate circulating around Steelers Nation on a regular basis, but one thing you shouldn't be worrying about is whether Butler's scheme will be good enough. Rather, the question is whether the players will be good enough to execute the scheme.