2021 Offseason Questions: How Much Longer Will Keith Butler Coach Steelers’ Defense?

Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row. Pittsburgh went 1-4 in the final five, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason, resulting in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. And right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

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 is a year-round pastime and there always questions to ask. Though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: How many more seasons will Keith Butler coach the Steelers’ defense?

Whether positively or negatively, the Steelers have had stability at the defensive coordinator position for pretty much decades at this point. Keith Butler, previously the team’s linebacker coach for many years, succeeded long-time coordinator Dick LeBeau several years ago.

Butler himself will be turning 65 a month from now, however, and is working for the remainder of his career on one-year deals. One wonders how much longer Butler intends to coach — and whether or not the Steelers will still want him coaching the defense before he wants to retire.

How many of us thought that LeBeau would retire before he coaches for another team? Of course, it didn’t happen that way. The Steelers decided to part ways a couple years before he was ready to call it a career.

There has been some positive development in Butler’s defense over the course of the past two years, though rumors have it that Mike Tomlin has increasingly taken on more control of the unit. Whether and how much will vary depending upon the source of said rumors. But it’s been suggested that he called the entire playoff game, for example.

Yet Butler remains in place for the 2021 season. But perhaps with the open-ended question lying over his head: For how much longer? Will this be his last season? Will 2022? Might he still be coaching in Pittsburgh a decade from now? Frankly, a lot of it just depends on how well his defense plays.

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