LeBeau (Center) will be ceding control of the Defense soon to Butler (Right). Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Pittsburgh's Retaining Butler Illustrates a Couple of Important Things

Steelers’ LB’s Coach Keith Butler should be staying staying on Pittsburgh’s staff for 2012 and beyond!  Woo Hoo!  While ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the news of Butler’s almost imminent departure over the weekend, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Gerry Dulac has nixed those rumors after Butler met with the Front Office and Coach Tomlin on Monday and decided against interviewing.

I for one could not be happier about the news that Butler is staying on the staff for 2012, and I thought that now would be a good time to discuss a few short thoughts of mine on the matter at hand.  So hit that “Continue Reading” button and let’s get started:

What The Move Says To Me

To be honest, I threw my arms in the air when I read on Monday night/Tuesday morning that Butler would be sticking around.  It’s a tad corny, but I truly breathed a huge sigh of relief when I read that Butler would be re-upping with the Steelers.

Yet in the midst of my happiness, I began to realize that Butler’s coming back wasn’t a huge shocker at all.  In fact, I should have expected that Pittsburgh’s Front Office and Mike Tomlin understood the kind of quality Coach that Keith Butler was, and that they would inevitably do what they needed to do to keep him around.

For those of you that are unaware, Butler was a hot commodity the last couple of off-seasons for Defensive Coordinating gigs.  After Schefter’s rumor that the Colts would be hiring Butler as their D.C., it really seemed that the Steelers had waited too long to ensure him a promotion.

However, the Steelers played it cool and made a sensible decision in a time of turmoil.  Butler, in a situation where his contract would be up and unsure of LeBeau’s future, saw an opportunity to be with friends in Indy., (could have been a leveraging move on his part, and kudos to him if that’s what he did) and run and rebuild his very own Defense.  Thankfully, Pittsburgh worked out a concession laden deal to keep “their guy” in Pittsburgh for the present with the implied notion of him taking over the Defense in the near future.  By keeping Butler on the staff, Pittsburgh ensured two very important things:

First, Pittsburgh now can bridge the gap from LeBeau to his successor without any issue.  There will be no controversy as to who will be taking the job, because the Front Office has essentially identified who they want to take over for one of the most successful Defensive Coaches this League has ever seen.  There is no possible way that Butler would have come back had there not been some sort of assurance that his time to be D.C. would come in the near future.  Second, the Steelers can maintain some sort of continuity on the Defensive side of the ball because Butler has been involved with 3-4 teams ever since he began coaching in the N.F.L. in 1999.  That being said, the Steelers can continue to develop the 3-4 guys already in their system while bringing new guys aboard to help with the effort down the road and learn right off the bat what Butler wants to do.  While there will undoubtedly be changes in terms of “wrinkles” and other aspects to the 3-4 scheme, the Base Defense should have numerous similarities to LeBeau’s.

Take note most of the N.F.L.: this is how teams stay successful over long periods of time.  They make football savvy decisions and plan for the future in the present.  They don’t dawdle and ignore as each and every season terrific assistants either jump ship, or are unaware of talented yet under-the-radar coaches around the League when they see them (i.e. Chuck Noll, Tony Dungy, Dom Capers, Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin, etc.).  It’s basically the formula that the Steelers have been following on a consistent basis for the last 40+ seasons.

So Congrats. Keith Butler.  You’ve earned your stripes and earned the D-Coordinator position through hard-work and terrific coaching.  The development of guys like Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, James Farrior, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, and LaMarr Woodley during your tenure as LB’s Coach has been nothing short of remarkable.

Also, Congrats. Mr. Rooney.  You’ve made yet another savvy football move and likely ensured the success and continuity of the franchise and its Defense for years to come.  And Coach Tomlin, kudos giving the go-ahead to the best candidate available for the position.

I’ll close these ramblings by making a cliched statement, but one that still captures the essence of the organization retaining of Butler: “Good teams don’t rebuild…They reload.”  Not only does this apply to players, but coaches as well.

As I stated before, most teams would scramble with what to do after their Defensive Coordinator eventually left and their top candidate bolted for greener pastures beforehand.  The Front Office and Tomlin simply addressed their top candidate, worked out a favorable deal on both ends, and found a way to adequately bridge the gap from the “Old Sage” to the “New Guy” with little to no issue.

I’d expect nothing less from one of professional sports’ most intelligent organizations.


Follow me on Twitter (@DominicDiTolla)

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