We know a couple things with complete certainty. Keith Butler will be back in 2019. And he’ll be, in title at least, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator. You might not like it, I might not like it, but that’s shaping up to be reality.
Butler may also end up coaching the outside linebackers. As was wrote late last week, he’s in consideration to replace Joey Porter. Some see that as an expansion of Butler’s role. But what if it isn’t? Maybe that’s the way to save face, Butler entering the final year of his deal, and show him out the door after the 2019 season.
Traditionally, and I’m saving this article for another time, the Steelers don’t outright fire coaches. Their contracts aren’t renewed, that’s the softer language the team likes to use, or there’s a “retirement” that makes the move sound more colorful than it is. If a coach is under contract, this team doesn’t often show him the door. It’d be for the wrong reasons but perhaps that’s one reason why Butler didn’t get a pink slip.
We know Mike Tomlin’s influence on this defense has increased over the last 18 months. Butler still plays a key role, at least, based on the information we have, and is still the playcaller on gamedays. But Tomlin’s impact is there and it isn’t going away. All the more reason to can Butler but that’s a rant for another time.
So instead, Butler may become Dwight Schrute. Assistant to the defensive coordinator. He’ll carry the title, wear a headset, but maybe this is the year Tomlin takes full control. Especially if he thinks his job will be on the line. That’s the sort of move head coaches make in situations like this. After all, Tomlin hinted at aggressive changes at his end of the year press conference. So far, the only defensive move they’ve mad is letting Porter go. Might as well bring a fire extinguisher to a forest fire.
Having Butler coach the outside linebackers is an easy solution. He’ll be a more successful coach there. He’s always been done well in that role as a linebackers coach, developing the likes of James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Lawrence Timmons. Then, the team can ceremoniously “thank him for his efforts” after the 2019 season ends.
Since they’re determined to keep him this year, it’s the best possible outcome.