Film Room: Butler Storms The Dolphins’ Backfield In Win

Keith Butler has had a lot in his bag of tricks during his time in Pittsburgh. His Storm Fire Zone, though, might be his most popular, and effective blitz concept. It produced another splash play against the Miami Dolphins yesterday afternoon.

The Dolphins come out in a 2×2 set early in the third quarter. They align both receivers to the same side, the Z and the X, in what Dick LeBeau called a “slot set” in his playbook.

And the formation checks to the Steelers Storm Blitz, as it outlines in LeBeau’s playbook.

But the Dolphins motion the #2 receiver across the formation into a 3×1 set. That changes the strength of the formation and causes Mike Mitchell to rotate down and Jordan Dangerfield to be the single high safety.

The blitz now comes from Mitchell. The away side linebacker, Bud Dupree, drops into coverage with basically every other blitzer – the linemen and blitz side linebacker – shooting down a gap to contain the quarterback and provide rush lane balance. Exception here is a twist by the defensive linemen, taking the other’s A gap.

Butler has tweaked things to have one of the linemen key the back and cover him if he releases.

The Dolphins screw up the protection, they had a tough time all day, with the back and the tight end picking up the C gap rusher, James Harrison. It leaves Mitchell free off the edge.

And Mitchell finishes the play. Sack, forced fumble on Matt Moore, with L.T. Walton recovering it. If you’re wondering, the coverage is supposed to be trap, with the blitz side trapping, corner reading 2 to 1, and the safety on the numbers to his side to provide support over the tap. Man coverage to the away side.

But here, the Dolphins are using just a two man route, so it basically becomes Cover 1, man free.

There is a check in LeBeau’s playbook to roll to standard Cover 3 if #2 has width outside the D gap, so a normal slot receiver, for example, though I don’t know if I’ve seen Butler check to it. But something to keep in mind.

We’ve seen this call work time and time again. Here it is against the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this season, resulting in a Jarvis Jones pick.

Or Ross Cockrell’s interception last season against the Baltimore Ravens.

And several examples we could go on and on about. It’s one of Butler’s most reliable and best calls. And probably one we see again Sunday.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • srdan

    I think the biggest part of that defense is knowing when to call it. If you mistime it and call it vs a screen its trouble.

  • francesco

    I call it a safety blitz which I have been calling for since forever.☺

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    It’s all Greek to me and I’ve been watching for 40 years!.

  • charles

    One might glance at Timmons success rate, ie, how many hurries, pressures and sacks per blitz. Against Clownies he was very effective, incredibly had 2 in a row against fins. Is he Steelers best Blitzer since JHarrison?

  • colingrant

    I remember this defensive play more than any other one as the pre-snap simultaneous shift of 4 or so Steelers was immediate and definitive. It was as if an offensive formation was identified, a defensive play call was made and what transpired was a well executed pressure package resulting in the desired result. I remember thinking, this is what the evolution of a “learning process” looks like after the growing pains have been felt. This may have been non-executable 8 weeks ago and definitely not executable 16 weeks ago. In addition to the rookies, Shazier by virtue of consecutive games played without missing games to injury, is now beginning to accrue experience at a faster rate than the previous two years. Can’t replace game reps. Same can be said for Villeneuva

  • Alex Kozora

    Well said man!

  • Mister Wirez

    I like how Harrison gets around the TE, and Ajayi is late to block to him then ultimately gets shoved in front of Moore causing more disruption as Mitchell arrives. It looks like Ajayi actually helps the Steelers to recover the ball. Total great play.

  • Louis Goetz

    Hypertechnical question: The ball was on the right hash. The tight end (#48) lined up on the left, so there were three guys with their hands in the dirt left of the center (and two to the right). The slot receiver (#10) motioned from right to left. You wrote that this changed the strength of the formation. Does that mean the strong side was the short side of the field before Stills went in motion, or was the left side always the strong side, but just got “stronger” after Stills went in motion? Also, after watching the play, if you’re MarQueis Gray’s father, do you just throw you kid’s jersey in the trash before anyone sees you wearing it? Man, did he get smoked!