Buy Or Sell: Steelers Making A Mistake In Retaining Keith Butler

Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler

The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.

That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).

The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.

Topic Statement: The Steelers are making a mistake by not making a change at defensive coordinator and retaining Keith Butler.

Explanation: Although his tenure as defensive coordinator got off to a bit of a rocky start, and he inherited an aging defense that needed to be retooled, Keith Butler over the past several years slowly helped transform the Steelers’ defense into respectability, and arguably one of the best in the league, though with the help of a lot of resource investment—and perhaps play-calling assistance.


The fact that Butler reportedly doesn’t call some or all of the defensive plays is both a point in favor of and against his retention. On the one hand, you would ideally prefer to be able to trust your defensive coordinator to call the plays. On the other hand, if Mike Tomlin wants to run the defense on game day, it makes sense to collaborate in this way.

But even with all the talent on defense, the number of issues that they have remain evident, and unless something changes, those issues will remain. From getting caught routinely in bad matchups (i.e. wide receivers against linebackers) to the occasional problematic miscommunication, it was time for a change in a season of change, and they made the wrong choice here.


If Tomlin is calling the plays, it’s because he wants to, and that’s made obvious by the fact that they retained Butler. Anybody else that they brought in wouldn’t be calling the plays, either. It’s the head coach’s prerogative, so that doesn’t even matter in this discussion.

The reality is that Tomlin seems to feel that Butler complements his defense well, and that have a very long working relationship at this point in running what can be a rather complex defense that they do not want to change. Unless they promote from within, they would have to basically teach a new defensive coordinator what they want to do.

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