Steelers To Use More Cover 2 In 2015?

As we sit back and enjoy the buildup to the 2015 season opener between the New England Patriots and our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, there are several storylines that need attention paid to them as we divulge and dissect the preseason games. One of which is the running game and how it’ll look minus the All-Pro talents of Le’Veon Bell. With his knee reportedly still not fully 100 percent, it’s HIGHLY unlikely Mike Tomlin dresses his young stud for any preseason action. It brings to mind the Chargers of the 2000s whenever future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson would never suit up for any exhibition games, as he meant that much to the team. The same of which can be said of Bell.

Another footnote to keep track of is the cohesion of a secondary perceived by many as the missing link on a championship-caliber squad. With grey-haired veterans like Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu riding off into the sunset of retirement, it left the team no choice but to go to the draft to channel in some youth, which came in the forms of corners Senquez Golson and Doran Grant. Each brings unique ball skills and physicality to the table, respectively, but is it asking too much too soon to expect major contributions in year one?

At Monday’s practice, Tomlin reportedly put the defensive backs through a gauntlet in teaching them the technique needed to play some Cover-2, an inkling of possible things to come this season as the team looks to do whatever is necessary to shore up the back end.

“We’re going to build this but we’re not going to build it all today,” Tomlin told Dale Lolley of the Observer-Reporter.

His words make it clear this isn’t a radical shift but a gradual one.

The year following the departure of defensive guru Dick LeBeau figures to have plenty of changes or wrinkles added and one could include this coverage instead of what we’re used to seeing, the three-deep. “You better wear multiple hats when you do my job and I embrace that,” Tomlin told Lolley.

The Cover-2 certainly is no stranger to Pittsburgh as it’s the coverage they ran during the dynasty teams that collected Super Bowls in bunches during the 70s. In today’s NFL, it’s commonly called the Tampa-2, in large thanks to Tony Dungy, who was a backup safety for those great Steelers’ teams before eventually becoming their defensive coordinator for several seasons in the 80s.  Coincidentally enough, when he became head coach of Tampa Bay, he gave none other than Tomlin his first NFL coaching gig.

The type of defense doesn’t need corners the caliber of a Darrelle Revis or a Patrick Peterson with All-pro cover skills, but it does require the linebackers to be adequate in coverage. “We’ve got to be able to cover,” Lawrence Timmons said, according to Lolley. “All of the tight ends now are 4.4, 4.5 guys. We’ve got to be able to run.”

Some members of the roster already have a wealth of experience in that defense, including veteran safety Will Allen, a draft pick of the Buccaneers back in 2004 when Tomlin was there. In fact, it was Allen along with coaching intern and former Super Bowl MVP safety Dexter Jackson, who were showing the corners the tendencies of the defense at practice Monday.

“We’ve always run it as a mixup,” Allen said, according to Lolley. “We’ve always kind of run it, even with LeBeau, but it depends on how much more we want to do with it. You have to work on certain techniques and things, like we do with all of our coverages.”

Before jumping the gun and claiming this Steelers’ defense is headed towards a full-blown shift to a 4-3 Cover-2, it’s apparent they’re intent on getting more looks out of their base 3-4, the most obvious one being using some Cover-2 on the back end to help cover up what was statistically one of the worst pass defenses in 2014.


  • Matt Manzo

    I’m excited about the tweaks we’ll see on D!

  • Xclewsive

    I agree with this article as I don’t view as much of a change. I don’t think fans will se a huge change, but the older players will most certainly notice.

  • Berlusconi

    Hey Dave, I like the new design, although I’m missing something, just minor: I really liked in the previous design that it was possible to see the name of the author before clicking on the article.

    Regarding the changes on D: I am probably not going to be able to see a difference without the help of you guys at Steelersdepot breaking it down for us; so I’m looking forward to that!

  • LucasY59

    With sub packages that are very 4-3 orientated, It is not surprising they switch to a more traditional 4-3 coverage with the cover 2, it could also be that they want to try and force some more INTs and a switch in coverage technique could help (since what they are doing recently is not getting it done) getting a few TOs could really help since the D has been struggling and isn’t that successful at stopping the pass (or big play) giving the Dynamic Offense an extra possession off a turnover could be the difference in Winning or Losing

  • falconsaftey43

    Just want to point out that you can play a cover 2 out of a 3-4 base, just means you have 2 safeties deep instead of one rolled up like troy always did. This is probably best to give our CBs more S help.

  • Ike Evans

    And it begins…

  • PittsburghSports

    Good! We should stop seeing a single Safety choosing the wrong side of the field to cover.

  • PittsburghSports

    Was there a live update article on here today? Can’t seem to find my way around the new site design.

  • theprideofpit

    they did not practice today.

  • Orlysteel

    They better cover, no matter what number it is.

  • Orlysteel

    They’ll be padded tomorrow, let the hitting begin.

  • Steve

    No mention of Worlds retiring, which makes 3 starters gone from last years D. This will be an interesting year with all the new guys, some of which will have to step up and contribute as in past years.

  • William Weaver

    Agree. Sometimes change is not only good but necessary. Had become too predictable without overwhelming talent to overcome that.

  • harrietfordypa

  • Steve

    With no one watching the front door we get this BS. Be gone you looser and don’t come back.

  • GoSteelerz

    I wonder, with the emphasis on all our LBS to cover, if the cover 2 will be even more effective in a 3-4 because you can confuse the offense with which LBS are covering and which are blitzing on any given play. Also you can dictate some favorable matchups with different LB coverages… Our defense could be quite interesting this year and beyond… Looking forward to seeing it!!!!

  • dirtbag66

    I see what you did there Orly.


    Early, but the LB depth chart is probably going to look like Moats LOLB, backed up by Dupree, and Jones ROLB backed up by Harrison…Shazier & Timmons inside.

    Moats and Jones are average in coverage imo and we know Harrison will be more a pass rushing specialists. Timmons is not quite as fast…needs to anticipate to stay in good coverage position…chasing on a TE drag route is not what we want to see a lot of with Timmons…I wonder if there will be any subpackages with Shazier & Spence on the field.


    Pressure…the personnel is slanting toward the best DEF players being on the DL…JJ may develop into a 2nd contract player, but imo he’s never going to live up to the lofty sack standards of prior OLBs. I think they have better players on the front 7 now…especially if McCullers can take the next step and be dominant.

    It might be ’16 before we see them in peak form, but I think they are much closer to championship caliber than a year ago.

  • The GreekGeek

    I’d argue we have better personnel for the 3-4 with the depth at ILB and with a NT like McCullers/McClendon. Heyward and Tuitt could probably be ends in either scheme.

  • The GreekGeek

    I’m just curious, but why does the front 7 change for a cover 2? Isn’t the cover scheme basically the methodology for two deep safeties, two corners, and the safeties provide deep zone coverage and support to the outside corners?

    My understanding is you can run cover 2 out of the 3-4, 4-3, 6-2, Nickel or whatever else. The underneath coverage and blitzing schemes are independent to concept of cover 2.

    Obviously there are variations. Traditionally, it has been run with a 4-3 but I think that is mostly in situations where you rush four and then drop linebackers into coverage. That way you have the 5 position players covered with the 3 LBs/2CBs and then overtop help with the safeties who split the field.

    Am I understanding it differently?


    LB wise in general…head count favors a 3-4…IMO…McCullers can hold the point of attack vs a dbl…McLendon cannot…he’s more a gap shooter.

    That DEF will always be a little prone to overload and the RB gets to the 2nd level because the NT can only handle one gap. With Hampton in there covering both gaps to keep OL off the ILBs…the 3-4 is just as strong vs the run.


    I think you’re spot on…I think they’re independent…more tradition than anything.

  • SteelChef93

    The main reason it’s more beneficial to run out of a 4-3 is because you have 3 mlbs who can cover in short zones instead of just 2 that you would have in a 3-4

  • The GreekGeek

    you have the same personnel just in a different formation. Even in the traditional 3-4 OLBs often have responsibility for the short zone and route based types of coverage. Look at the breakdown of Worilds Alex K. recently did for this site. If anything you have less guys to drop unless you drop a DE or a DT into coverage. This has been done before but you need guys athletic enough to do it. Maybe Cam could but I don’t think the others could do it well.

    That means in the 3-4 you have 4 LBs availble to drop and in the 4-3 you have 3 LBs and a DL (maybe) and that DL will be a liability.

    I don’t mind us using a 3-4/Big nickel with cover 2 concept behind it.

  • GoSteelerz

    If Dupree can get the nuances of coverage down, he has good athleticism to cover and H. Jones is supposedly very athletic and may be able to translate that to cover skills… I don’t know how it will all pan out, you make a good point, our starters may not be the best cover guys. Maybe part of the reason why is because they haven’t worked on those skills much because of how they’ve been used in coverage in the past. Maybe the emphasis on mixing in cover 2 style coverage along with the one gapping playmaking from the DL makes these guys work on skills they haven’t before. They may end up being better than we anticipate. I sure hope so. I think this defense will be fun to watch, I’m looking forward to it!