The Steelers are not planning to replace their offensive coordinator, but they will have a new defensive leader next season. Longtime DC Keith Butler informed the team he is retiring, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.
Butler has been in place as Pittsburgh’s DC since Dick LeBeau‘s 2015 exit. The Steelers delivered up-and-down work during Butler’s tenure, but they had trended upward during the second half of his stay. Butler, 65, has been with the Steelers since 2003, working as the team’s linebackers coach for over a decade prior to his promotion. The Steelers had given Butler a one-year extension in 2021.
A former Seahawks starting linebacker in the 1970s and ’80s, Butler has been an NFL assistant since 1999, when he broke into the league as linebackers coach for the expansion Browns team. In Butler’s 19 seasons in Pittsburgh, he oversaw the work of numerous standout linebackers — from James Harrison to LaMarr Woodley to Ryan Shazier to T.J. Watt — and was part of three Super Bowl staffs as a position coach.
While the Steelers’ defense came up short in some home playoff spots during Butler’s tenure, the unit also did plenty to help the team into postseason fields in recent years. The Steelers remain on a stellar streak in the sack department, having led the NFL in this category five seasons running. This year, Pittsburgh’s 55 sacks — an NFL-record-tying 22.5 from Watt — were four more than any other team’s total. That helped an offensively limited team back to the playoffs. This season’s Steelers defense was less impressive as a whole, ranking just 24th in yards allowed. But Butler’s troops had ranked in the top six in this category from 2017-20.
With the Steelers expected to make their first quarterback transition during Mike Tomlin‘s tenure, the 15-year veteran HC will be tasked with making a key hire that will spearhead a veteran defense. Tomlin made a change on the offensive side last year, replacing Randy Fichtner with Matt Canada.