Steelers defense to simplify scheme vs. Buccaneers after giving up 42 points in loss to Chiefs

The Steelers' defense was torched for 42 points last week, courtesy of six touchdown passes from Patrick Mahomes. After the game, nickel back Mike Hilton explained how things went so horribly wrong.

"We feel we gave them 21 points," he said, via ESPN.com. "They really didn't go down and earn it on us. We had a lot of miscommunications and blown coverages. It led for a 21-0 start."

Turns out, the Steelers purposely complicated things last Sunday in an effort to confuse Mahomes but instead ended up confusing themselves. The defense focused on stopping tight end Travis Kelce and ended up leaving other targets wide open.

And by the time it was over, they weren't even covering Kelce.

"We have a quarterback on the (defense), and we always have to play what he is playing," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said this week, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Chris Adamski. "Even if he is wrong, we all have to be wrong. We all have to be 'wrong,' and we will be right if we do that. I know that doesn't make sense to y'all, but it makes sense to our guys."

In theory maybe, but in the seven games since Ryan Shazier was lost to a spinal cord injury, the Steelers have allowed 29 points per game, on average, including twice giving up at least 40 points.

Now the Steelers will travel to Tampa Bay to face the NFL's second-most efficient offense (after, of course, the Chiefs) that features Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is completing 78 percent of his throws, boasts a 151.5 passer rating and has eight touchdowns against one interception.

"We have to do a better job of coaching, a better job of understanding what we are trying to get done in the defense and make sure we are not trying to do too much defensively," Butler continued.

Linebacker Bud Dupree, who admitted that the defense didn't give Mahomes enough credit heading into last week's game, thinks the unit is close to putting it all together.

"Yeah, the scheme of this defense, it's just really different, yeah," he said. "But once all cylinders are on the same page, it can be a deadly defense -- if it's clicking. So that's all we are all trying to make sure we are working toward, that we all can be solid and doing our job and in the right places and doing the right things. As long as we're doing that, we'll make the defense look like the way it should look."

But it's not like Butler is new, or the defense features a bunch of new faces; veteran safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker Jon Bostic were added in the offseason, as was first-round rookie safety Terrell Edmunds. Otherwise, the defense is unchanged. But maybe that's a problem too; on Saturday, backup cornerback Coty Sensabaugh told reporters that he had taken first-team snaps ahead of 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns during Saturday's practice. Burns, who has started 27 straight games, could be demoted in Tampa Bay.

There's more bad news for the 0-1-1 Steelers. Pro Bowl right guard David DeCastro (broken hand), left tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) and Burnett (groin) are listed as doubtful. DeCastro didn't play last week and is a long shot to return on Monday night.

If the Steelers drop to 0-2-1 it would be their worst start since 2013, when they were 0-4 before finishing 8-8.

As it stands, four of eight CBSSports.com experts think the Steelers will get their first win of the season on Monday night.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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