The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Is the decision to give Keith Butler the outside linebackers responsibility a vote of confidence or no confidence?
Keith Butler has been with the Steelers on the coaching staff longer than anybody else who is still working in an on-field capacity. He arrived as linebackers coach even before Dick LeBeau returned, and now that John Mitchell is now off-field, nobody outranks him in terms of longevity.
Serving as linebackers coach from 2003 up to 2014 when the team parted with LeBeau, he has been the defensive coordinator since then, the Steelers hiring Jerry Olsavsky and Joey Porter—who had been defensive assistants in 2014—to replace him, splitting his job into two, the former taking the inside linebackers and the latter the outside.
But Porter’s contract was not renewed after four seasons, and reportedly the team is not planning on bringing a new coach to take his place. Instead, when a direct position coach is needed, Butler will field those responsibilities. But what exactly does that mean behind the scenes?
Many are choosing to take this as a gradual demotion, with Mike Tomlin’s intention to control more, or even most of, the defensive responsibilities for himself while Butler functions more as a position coach once again.
Or it could be like Randy Fichtner, who is the team’s offensive coordinator in addition to being the quarterbacks coach. This is a possibility that few seem to be leaving open, and the truth is it might be a while before we know how the coaching staff really functions in this hierarchy, if we ever actually learn at all.