I am going to do something that will more than likely get me in trouble with the Yinzers but I just have to say it. No, I’m not going to bash the running game but this is right there I suppose. I’m suggesting that the Pittsburgh Steelers need to give linebackers’ coach Keith Butler the opportunity to run the Steelers’ defense.
Yes I know exactly what that means. It means that, (gulp!) Dick LeBeau would have to finally ride off into retirement. So where should I stand in order to receive my public stoning for mentioning such a thing?
This isn’t an indictment of LeBeau’s defense as much as it is a commentary on giving Butler the reigns he has allegedly been promised. At 56 years old, the Memphis grad has been waiting in the wings now as LeBeau’s heir apparent since 2003 and he isn’t getting any younger.
During that time he’s coached guys like James Farrior, Joey Porter, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison to Pro Bowl seasons. He has also helped coach up the defense that has ranked annually in the top five in the league.
Butler is no stranger to the 3-4 defense either. He instituted it at his Alma mater and had great success with it there even upsetting Tennessee led by Peyton Manning. That certainly turned out to be a harbinger of things to come for Manning didn’t it?
Throughout this off-season we have seen interesting and questionable decisions made by the front office. We’ve seen and heard comments from current and former players about a shift in attitudes and even philosophy. What has seemingly remained steady through all of that has been Dick LeBeau who returns from yet another season where his defense ranked number one in the league.
LeBeau is a legend. You’ll get no argument from me on this. He has earned the right to decide when he wants to be done, but that shouldn’t excuse the fact that the defense has become predictable and for the second straight year struggled to create turnovers.
Look back over his career in recent years and you’ll also see an alarming number of fourth quarter letdowns resulting in losses or comebacks from the offense. I’m not suggesting that Keith Butler will be better or even on par with LeBeau as a defensive coordinator but the man is ready and with the defense in transition over the next few years, is there a better time to make the switch?
How could I possibly think that we should make a change here right? Again, I’m not saying this will happen or should happen this year because it isn’t. I would be OK with it, but it isn’t happening.
At this point, if I’m Keith Butler, I can’t afford to turn down opportunities with other teams because he deserves his shot sooner rather than later. While the Steelers can limit his options in this regard, they need to do more than promise him a position. Should he choose to leave as Ray Horton did, I won’t blame him one bit. This is exactly why he needs his shot at running the Steelers’ defense.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.