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Commentary: Steelers Defense Won’t Change Much Under Butler? Why Not?


The talk of the recent few days among the Steelers and Steelers Nation is a quote from Cameron Heyward about how much the defense under new defensive coordinator Keith Butler won’t change much after the departure from Dick LeBeau.

Is that a good thing?

Let’s be honest, we’re not talking about the Steel Curtain or the even the Steelers dominant defense of 2008 that carried them to a Super Bowl victory over the Arizona Cardinals, based in part on a crazy 100-yard pick six by James Harrison.

This is a defense that the last couple of seasons has had a tendency to give up way too many big plays, miss tackles, and give up points at the worst times with the game on the line.

Last season the Steeelers defense was ranked 18th in the NFL, allowing 353.4 yards per game. But let’s not make many changes, we wouldn’t want to see them get better or anything.

The Steelers allowed 253 yards per game passing, and 100.3 yards per game rushing. They gave up 23 points per game, good enough to win the division at 11-5, but not good enough to get past round one at home vs the Ravens.

In contrast there was Seattle, a team the Steelers will see in 2015. They gave up 15.9 points per game, and 267.1 yards per game.

They touted themselves as a ‘legendary’ defense, but in the end a costly mistake at the end of the Super Bowl cost them back-to-back titles.

Go back to 2008 when the Steelers defense was as good as any see in the last 15-20 years in the NFL. That season they gave up just 13.9 points per game, and when it came to yards, they allowed just 237.1 yards per game. Simply awesome.

Sure the players were different, but instead of holding on to the past and what Dick LeBeau installed, maybe it’s time for Butler to make changes, serious changes, to a unit that could use getting back to being dominant again.

They will have a much younger, and what should be a much faster defense when the season opens up barring injury, and with that they will have a number of young, hungry players that want to make a name for themselves, and will get the shot to do so.

The long term foundation under LeBeau was set once he came back in 1994, and the team thrived under it. Sadly the last few seasons the team had moments of being good on defense, but as a whole just never got to the championship level that they will again look to attain.

“I don’t think there are going to be too many changes,” said Heyward. “It’s going to be the same details. We will have a couple of new wrinkles, but we won’t share them now.

As for Heyward’s comments, let’s see if the ‘wrinkles’ he spoke of rings true, and if there’s a lot more of those under Butler, who will also look to form his own identity than what the Steelers defensive end is letting on to.

Let’s hope so.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



  1. DrGeorge

    May 26, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Butler will change the defense, because he must. The game has changed under Goodell’s stewardship to a pass first, run second parody of what football once was. The old Steel Curtain could not compete under these rules; they were built for different rules. Butler must adapt to today’s reality. And fans will put up with it because they care more about being entertained than about the game.

    It is the same phenomenon seen in other professional sports. The TV tail wags the NFL dog. The league is simply gratifying TV advertisers, packaging sport for the lowest common denominator who care more about points than tradition. If the NFL is playing basketball on grass these days, Butler must teach football players how to play man-to-man defense in three dimensions. The defense in 2015 will be different. That’s why we’ve been drafting all that speed.

  2. Tommy Jaggi

    May 26, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Take a look at this in-depth breakdown of the Steelers new-look defense at

    If you like my work, follow me on twitter at @TommyJaggi

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