Most, I assume, are aware of the fact that Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler was not only formerly a linebackers coach, but also a linebacker himself. He was a second-round draft pick of the Seahawks in 1978 and played there for a decade, starting 132 games as an inside linebacker. He may have never gone to a Pro Bowl, but he was an accomplished player in his own right.
The fact that he was such an experienced player helps him relate to his players, and helps his players respect his wisdom, which is the same advantage that Mike Munchak has with the offensive line or Carnell Lake has with the defensive backs.
But when it comes to Steelers 2017 first-round draft pick T.J. Watt, the fact that he is a linebacker isn’t the only thing they have in common. He also knows a little something about having a brotherly rivalry on the field.
Though I can’t find a whole lot of information on the topic, Keith and his brother Zachy both attended Memphis State in the mid- to late-1970s. As best I can tell, his brother did not follow him into the NFL, but they were competitive on the field.
Butler talked about that recently while speaking with Missi Matthews for the team’s website. Matthews asked the coach what he liked about Watt, and after running on about his smarts and football intelligence, he talked about the fact that he “comes from a very competitive family”.
His brother is, of course, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, a former top-10 pick who before dealing with an injury last season made NFL history after becoming the Defensive Player of the Year in three out of four seasons. Not that anybody reading this doesn’t know who J.J. Watt is by now.
But the Texans will be hosting the Steelers on Christmas Day this season, and so the two are looking forward to getting the opportunity to play against each other outside the backyard for the first time in their lives.
“He and his brother—his brother’s hoping he gets to play fullback once or twice this year when we play him so he could try to run over his other brother”, Butler told Matthews. Watt has played some on offense in the past, and even caught a couple of touchdown passes.
“I can relate to that”, the defensive coordinator added. “I had a brother that I played with in college and we were just as competitive, so I think he’s going to be highly competitive. We feel like he can be productive and get better as he gets older”.
Watt should not only get his competitiveness from his older brother, but also his discipline, his work ethic, and his training regimen. “He’s got a jump because his brother can tell him, he can listen to his brother, he will listen to his brother”, Butler said. “They’re training like he should be training right now”.