Pittsburgh Steelers will ‘simplify’ defensive game plan vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers


PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are simplifying the defense after giving up 42 points to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2.

Pittsburgh needs a boost after an 0-1-1 start and a Monday Night Football matchup with league passing leader Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“It’s not an excuse, but I think simplifying the game plan, letting us line up and make plays, line up to what we see [will help],” said cornerback Joe Haden, who expects to return to the lineup after missing the Chiefs game with a hamstring issue. “We have to do a lot of film study, study the receivers and see where they line up at. And since they throw with timing, we’ve got to get a feel for the concepts.”

Defensive coordinator Keith Butler admitted to trying to “do too much” with the Kansas City game plan, and the communication breakdowns commenced.

At Heinz Field, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes became the first quarterback since Len Dawson in 1964 to throw six touchdowns on the road. And he missed a few touchdown opportunities, too.

Linebacker Bud Dupree said he thought the Steelers could fool a young quarterback, but Mahomes broke the Steelers down at the line of scrimmage with checks.

The defense is built on applying quarterback pressure, with the 2017 Steelers breaking a franchise record with 56 sacks. But this year’s defense has five sacks through two games, including one sack of Mahomes.

“I hope it’s simple enough for where they can run the defense and there wouldn’t be a problem,” said Butler of the changes. “Not that we had a bunch of these in-game, but we did have some guys running free a couple times. You saw a guy go down the middle, that was a lack of communication on the field. We have to do a better job of that, and we as coaches have to do a better job of coaching these guys and making sure they are comfortable in what we are doing.”

Haden’s presence should help. The Steelers didn’t give up a passing play of 40 or more yards through the first five games of last season but gave up 12 passing plays of 40-plus in the season’s second half while Haden missed five games.

Haden tells his fellow defensive backs to force receivers to come back to the quarterback for the ball, not letting teams “beat us with a bomb.”

That’s especially crucial with DeSean Jackson and Fitzpatrick, who has 819 yards and eight touchdowns.

“He’s slinging it,” said Haden of Fitzpatrick. “He’s giving his guys opportunities. It doesn’t look like hope. He’s throwing that thing on time.”

At least defensive end Cam Heyward has a solution for stopping a red-hot quarterback.

“Put him in the freezer,” he said.

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