Keith Butler: ‘We Just Need To Enhance Our Matchup Zones’

There has been no greater source of intrigue and discussion for the fan base thus far this offseason, in my estimation, than has been the innuendos surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers about potentially become a more diverse unit on defense in terms of the variety of coverages that they intend to employ heading into the 2017 season.

While it may largely be contributed to information being passed along something less than seamlessly, it has been my observation that we have seen several different varieties of just what it is the Steelers intend to do this year, ranging from becoming a press-man team to virtually no change from last season.

That is why I was glad to hear defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked about the topic recently during minicamp, and as he does that few other coaches do extensively, the former linebackers coach got into more detail about just what they do, breaking down different sub-sets of coverages.

We still are going to zone drop, because that’s what we did last year, and I think we’re pretty good at it”, Butler stated. The Steelers have primarily used this sort of coverage for the longest time, and the odds are that it is still going to be their primary look.

“We just need to enhance our matchup zones. Matchups zones to me is like a man-to-man coverage”, Butler told reporters. “You match the guy when you figure out whether he’s one, two, or three. We count from the outside in whoever becomes one, two, or three. Those type of things we’re matching on”.

Then the defensive coordinator talked about straight man coverage, saying that “when we’re playing man-to-man coverage, we’re playing personnel. We’re going to put somebody on the tight end, we’re going to put somebody on the slot receiver, we’re going to put somebody on the outside receivers, and just plain man-to-man”.

This is something that they have only done sporadically in their defense, particularly recently, which is largely a product of the personnel that they have available to them. Regarding the spot-dropping against the Patriots, Butler said that he “did what we felt we had to do against them with where we were at at the time, in terms of where our defense was at at the time”.

The idea this season is not necessarily to do anything differently, but rather simply to expand their ability to play any coverage at any time when it is suited. Butler’s comment clearly suggests that they would have liked to be able to do different things in New England that he plans to be able to do this year.

“Sometimes we’re just going to drop into zones”, he said, but added, “I think you’ve got to be able to do all of it, because if you don’t and they know what you’re doing, they’ll get you”.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Darth Blount 47

    Exactly. This was a well needed article, Matt. So thank you for posting it.

  • Big White


  • John Pennington

    Need a defensive coordinator in the worst way.Butler is not the man for this job.

  • falconsaftey43

    Based on what?

  • george

    If they zone drop against Brady the results will be the same. The only way you beat him is to jam his reecievers at the LOS and pressure him up the middle so he can’t step up in the pocket.

  • Rob H

    Because he used southern terms like “dadgummit” and “daggon”, while not saying we would play man 90% of the time.
    I do think this is a big year for him though, he has the pieces now, he has to show that he can put them in the right places, and come up with sound gameplans against the upper tier QB’s.

  • francesco

    I will have to agree with you.
    His mind is too simple and slow for the complexities of this game.

  • WreckIess

    This is what I’ve been hoping to hear. The best defenses are able to play whatever coverage that the situation calls for, but match up zones in particular is what they need to work on the most in my opinion. I do like how committed he is to being able to play different styles though because he’s absolutely correct that playing one way will get you beat.

  • Jimbo

    so no changes coming, Not surprised.

  • Edjhjr

    Teams that beat Brady, pressure him, hit him,sacked him.

  • walter

    Since he thinks we are pretty good at it, why bother changing anything????

  • walter

    Because he thinks we did pretty good last year and he pretty much said that he isnt changing much

  • walter


  • walter

    im starting to think in that direction

  • WreckIess

    He’s talking about better utilizating matchup zones. How isn’t that a change?

  • Matthew Marczi

    They did do pretty good last year. Look at the numbers in comparison to the rest of the league.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Read the entire article.

  • AndyR34

    Some people, Matthew, can read but cannot comprehend. Their thinking is linear at best and if they don’t hear exactly what they want to hear, then what they hear (or read) cannot be valid.

  • walter

    AndyR34 that was a low blow and completely uncalled for. Back in my school days my comprehension was considered the top in my class. Andy do you have a grudge or personal beef of some kind against me? Those are very nasty comments to make online.

  • walter

    I did. And I just singled out that one single quote because I felt like it and I would like to see more changes..

  • walter

    Im not gonna bash our secondary. I will agree that we did “pretty good”. We are improving and we played 2 rookies last year with enourmous potential. But geez Im not sure “pretty good” is gonna be good enough to beat New England. I see your boy Andy voted up on your comment

  • Brenton deed

    As if he’s going to give too much away?… He doesn’t want other teams thinking there are going to be large changes… just “fine tuning”.
    Otherwise they’ll be tuning into everything he does. This is all media froth and bubble, if he said:”no change” no one would believe it..: so he winds it up to what the “football world” expects him to say.

    Look at the people they’re drafting … long, athletic guys…something’s up and he’s not going to tell us… deal with it.

  • BaconLovingInfidel


    Please explain where your philosophies diverge in terms of strategy and the actual tactics of formation and technique in the 34 Okie defense which show Butler’s lack of understanding Xs and Os and your superior knowledge and intelligence.

  • BaconLovingInfidel

    So, instead of poor reading comprehension, dishonest mischaracterization of the interview and what Butler actually said in order to whine for no other reason than to hear yourself whine?

    Great, walter. Thanks for the contribution.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Last year, Butler gets a bit of a pass because of the youth in the secondary, and even some this year. But, at some point, it will come down to his defensive approach and strategy – especially when it comes down to beating New England.

  • Wayne’O

    “That was where we were as a defense at that time.”……….You were in January having already played 18 meaningful games. And Bilicheat knew where you were at and exactly what you were you would be. That’s why a no name, journey man receiver, torched your azzz for almost 200 yards receiving and you had no answer for it and never adjusted and you still ain’t going to adjust.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, the reason I suggested to read the entire article is because he later said that the reason he wanted to do this was because an offense will start to pick you apart if you don’t vary your coverages enough.

  • SilverSteel

    Interesting take on the comments. You sir get an upvote👏

  • walter

    And that seems to be exactly what happened in the New England game. (picked us apart) He can talk all he wants, he needs to do it. And he seems to be slow to make changes. But then again he may have thought we did “pretty good.” Maybe Im wrong but I thought he failed to make necessary adjustments in that game and in some of the other games. We seem to be out-coached whenever we play New England and its not just myself that has mentioned it.

  • walter

    LOL I like that

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well the suggestion seems to be that they tried different things but they failed because they weren’t ready to run it yet, and that this year the young DBs will be able to handle it. That’s the thinking anyway. Let’s hope it goes according to plan.