While Steelers Offense gets the Headlines, Defense is Very Tough
The Philadelphia Eagles will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday and while their defense will be looking to control veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown in the game, their offense is sure to have their hands full when it comes to controlling the Steelers new look defense, which is led by defensive coordinator Keith Butler, a Dick LeBeau disciple. During his weekly press conference, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich talked about one specific thing that is a strength of the Steelers defense.
“Stopping the run," said Reich.
The Pittsburgh defense has allowed just 101 total rushing yards through two weeks, the second-best mark in the NFL, dominating both Washington and Cincinnati in their first two contests.
"I don't know for sure, but you can look over the last 20 years, this defense is continually in the top five versus the run. They have great schemes to stop the run. They have great personnel to stop the run. They put you into a pass only mode, and then can run some of their exotic stuff. But I think that's their strength.”
Even though the Eagles played the Steelers during the preseason, they didn't see a whole lot of different looks from them on defense. But while Reich talked about their ability to stop the run, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson knows they can also present some unique challenges for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.
"The biggest thing really, and it’s what you see on film, is the aggressive style," Pederson explained. "I mean, they love to get after the passer. They will bring those two middle backers, [Ryan] Shazier and [Lawrence] Timmons -- they’ll bring both of those guys."
In addition to talking about how the Steelers use their middle backers under Butler, Pederson described a few other noticeable traits of the Pittsburgh defense through the first two weeks of the 2016 regular season.
“One thing you notice, too, is they love to keep their eyes on the quarterback and vision on the quarterback, and so it becomes, for any quarterback, where you are looking in the progression of plays. You’ve got to be able to look off and do some different things that way," Pederson stated.
"When teams that play man [coverage] -- I don't want to say it's easy, but man coverage is man coverage. You know what you're going to get. When it's zone, it's a little bit harder. You have to be more detailed and precise in your routes and your progressions.”
Another game and another 3-4 team this week, the Browns and Bears both used that defense against the Eagles, but the Steelers look is a little different.
"Yeah, they (Browns and Bears) were a little similar," Pederson said. "The Steelers actually play a true 34. You will see more of that front with this group. [They’ll] still play their under front and over front and mix it up a little bit in their base packages. As far as the three games, this is more of a 34 look."