This article contains references and responses to Ron Cook’s recent article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which can be found here.
When expectations are high for a football team, let down is almost always inevitable. However, when the fall from grace is as catastrophic as the Pittsburgh Steelers, the situation exceeds inevitable. In fact, the collapse in Pittsburgh has reached and surpassed the level of inexcusable. This type of systematic failure cannot go unaccounted for. Almost like giving up 45 points and 378 yards to the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars after a bye. After that performance, Keith Butler should have been removed as Steelers defensive coordinator. After this season, he still needs to be removed.
Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Issues: Keith Butler Is the Problem
To preface, there are many issues with this Steelers football team. I have often said that Mike Tomlin is the biggest problem. The culture he has created has done away with the honor and respect that used to be associated with this franchise. But, we all know he will not be fired. I also believe Kevin Colbert does not get enough scrutiny for his inability to draft in the secondary. His otherworldly ability to select star receivers and running backs often covers for this. But Colbert is still too good a general manager to fire.
In his recent column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ron Cook puts the blame on Pittsburgh’s mediocre defensive players. To me, this is unfair. There were no big surprises on defense this year. We know Artie Burns is not good. We know Bud Dupree is not good. We knew coming in that Jon Bostic would be serviceable at best. After about three games, we knew Terrell Edmunds needed (and still needs) to take tackling 101. There is too much talent on the front end of this defense to not be able to scheme around its holes.
The example Cook uses to defend Butler does not hold water for me. Cook points to a particular play in the Saints loss when Morgan Burnett blew his coverage. The crucial mistake cost Pittsburgh 25 yards and led to the Saints game-winning touchdown. Cook states that it is not Butler’s fault that Burnett blew his coverage. He points to the fact that Burnett is a nine-year veteran and this mistake is inexcusable. Again, while this is true, there is a flaw in this argument.
I believe it is up to the coach to comprehend the intelligence and ability of his players. This is especially true for the coordinators. There were multiple times this season and last that the secondary blew assignments due to confusion. Nothing was changed, and the problem persisted. When every student fails a teacher’s class, it is not the fault of the students. The teacher must identify the ability of their students change the curriculum accordingly. When multiple members of your secondary are confused on what is going on, you need to change the scheme.
The Bottom Line
Cook’s piece is well thought out and well-written, don’t get me wrong. But when the blame falls on the players, players that will not be replaced, no one is held accountable. There needs to be some accountability on this team. When your kids misbehave, you take responsibility. Of course, the players messed up this year. No one is refuting that. But to give Butler a pass after two fireable seasons is too much for me.