From The Coach's Mouth: Steelers Defense

Part II of the end-of-OTA interviewing sessions with the Steelers' coaching staff.

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coaches were in the interview spotlight following the final OTA of the spring. Finding the coaches with small groups of reporters, and with as few web cams as possible, was my goal and eventually I did garner a one-on-one with ILB coach Jerry Olsavsky. That interview will run tomorrow, but in the meantime here are some of the top comments made by the other defensive coaches:

Keith Butler, coordinator

(On being promoted to coordinator:) "I’ve known Coach Tomlin for a long time. We coached together for a while. We coached together when he was a G.A. at Memphis, and he was my secondary coach at Arkansas State. I’ve been wanting to coach for him for a while, and I appreciate the opportunity."

(On waiting patiently behind Dick LeBeau:) "I've always thought this place gave me the best chance to win a Super Bowl as a coordinator. That’s one of the reasons I always stayed. The other reason is that Coach Tomlin is a great guy to work for."

(On potential changes:) "There will be some things that are different, yes. There are some things we did well last year. We have to try to marry two things, the things that we did well last year and maybe some things we haven’t done before here. We are going to try to do those."

(What are those things?) "I'll let the Patriots figure that out."

(On measuring progress:) "The best thing for us right now is we are practicing against one of the premiere offenses in the league, so going against them every day is only going to make us better. If I can see us getting better against those guys, then I feel pretty good about where we could be as a defense."

(On his location during games:) "I’ve seen the game from the field all my life. I am not about to go upstairs. I did that one time, and I hated it. I really did as a coach. We were playing Cincinnati one time when I coached for Cleveland and Dwayne Rudd was my linebacker, and he took off his helmet after he made a big play on fourth down. It was a fourth-down stop. He took off his helmet. They called a penalty, and they went down and kicked a field goal to beat us. And I couldn’t dive after him [laughs]. That’s why I was saying I don’t want to sit upstairs."

Joey Porter, outside linebackers

(On any changes with Butler:) "You’re going to add wrinkles here and there, which is going to make our defense that much better, but it’s the same defense we’ve been running. If it ain't broke, why fix it? It's been a good defense for a long time and it will continue to be a good defense. We've got a good coordinator who understands the game. He’s been in this defense a long time, too, so he knows how to run it."

(On whether this scheme still produces pressure after all these years:) "It's not the defense. The defense has been proven over years that it works. We've just got to get the guys to go out there and execute the defense and play at a high level."

Carnell Lake, defensive backs

(On Cortez Allen's progress:) "He’s diligent at it. He's very conscious and is really trying hard out here to take another step forward in his career. I think for Tez, the proof will be in the pudding when the live bullets start to get fired in preseason games. I'm looking for him to step up. We need Tez to not only improve upon last year, but -- this is a fifth-year corner and we've got some younger corners behind him -- to take a leadership role as well."

(How does he accomplish this?) "Hopefully diligent work every day gives him confidence to go out there and play with confidence, because obviously corners have to play with confidence. The only way you get confidence is to make plays and be consistent in practice. Tez is working on that right now."

(How challenging is it for rookies to play?) "That depends on the player. And two, I think it depends on the organization’s philosophy in terms of starting rookies or young guys. There are different philosophies. Some teams, some coaches don’t like to start rookies. They want them to develop under veterans and then kind of bring them out slowly. Others will just throw you in the fire and see what you got. I think a lot of that depends on the kind of abilities that you bring to the table as a player."

(On whether he believes in throwing them in the fire:) "Well, I do. That's basically how I was raised in the NFL. Day One, I was thrown in the fire. You make a lot of mistakes. You can correct those quickly and make some plays while you're doing it, and you can stay around awhile. Otherwise it could potentially set back a young player because their confidence is broken and needs fixing. Sometimes it can be fixed. Sometimes it can't."

(Any candidates here?) "I think so. We'll see. I don't want to really say right now but I've got my eyes on a couple guys I think can help us. Based on the history since I've been coaching here, usually one of the younger guys has had to step in, including Cortez his rookie year."

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