PITTSBURGH -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive assistant Lou Spanos, who spent last season as the defensive coordinator at UCLA, was all to glad to tell Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler about Jordan Zumwalt.
Whatever Spanos said about the 6-foot-4, 235 Zumwalt, Butler must have liked it. The Steelers selected him in the sixth round Saturday during the NFL Draft, and Zumwalt could't have been more thrilled.
"Finally,'' Zumwalt said. "And thank you for being the Steelers. It's like, you know when you were a kid and you were waiting for Christmas? So, this was like that. It was pretty tough.''
Does that make Steelers coach Mike Tomlin Santa Claus?
"I guess that's a comparison you could make,'' Zumwalt added. "(But) I would love to get the opportunity to play for this defense, (and) I'm very excited about it. I love the game, and I have a lot of passion for the game. And if you've seen me play ... I'm going to bring everything that I have to this game.''
Butler noted that UCLA played a similar defense to what the Steelers play, thanks to Spanos' influence, so the transition shouldn't be as difficult.
"He's a long, tall kid,'' Butler said. "But I would see him as an inside guy, too, at this point. So, he can provide some backup for us and play some special teams for us. And create competition at the inside linebacker position. So, we should have some (competition).''
Butler also addressed No. 1 pick Ryan Shazier, as well as the Steelers overall situation at linebacker this year.
"We couldn't pass him up when he was there,'' Butler said about Shazier. "There were a lot of guys that we liked at that spot, but they were all drafted. So, when he came, a guy with that type of speed, you can't pass him up. He's going to make us immediately faster on defense.
"We're going to have three guys sub 4.4 on defense (with) Shamarko Thomas, the kid we got from Carolina (safety Mike Mitchell) and this kid (Shazier). So, sub-4.4 for a linebacker is moving.''
Butler was asked if Shazier could get any bigger, and the coach's response was short and sweet.
"I'd like him to move,'' Butler said. "I don't want him to get so big that he can't move. A lot of young linebackers get it in their heads that they have to be 250-260, but that's bull crap to me. Pardon my language. For me, it's can they move and be where they need to be when they need to be there. He can make up for any mistakes with his speed.''
And even though Shazier is listed anywhere between 235-240 pounds, Butler didn't believe he would weigh that much.
"Potsie, James Farrior, played at 225-230 his last few years in the league,'' Butler said. "And he was a Pro Bowl guy. One year, I thought he should have been the NFL defensive player of the year, and he was 230. Foote also played at 230-235.
"Lawrence is the biggest guy we've had inside in recent years. ... Nowadays, the trend in the NFL is where they have multiple personnel groups. That's 60-65 percent of the time. It's trending more than that, so you have to put faster people on the field to match that.''
The injury to Foote last season forced the Steelers to put Troy Polamalu at linebacker quite often last season in sub-packages, but Butler believed the Shazier pick could eliminate that and keep Polamalu at safety.
"I think this will take a little pressure off (Polamalu),'' Butler said. "And maybe on third down, maybe we'll have a little package for everybody. So, we've got some ideas.''
Timmons, Butler noted, likely will primarily play the Buck position this year. Also, adding Joey Porter to the linebacker room as an assistant coach should help the entire group, but last year's No. 1 pick Jarvis Jones in particular.
"I think he can help him immensely,'' Butler said. "He and Joey probably are the same guy, in their style of play. Joey always had an attitude when he played, and we need some of that. I've already told the story about him going to the bus to pull everybody off the bus (against the Ravens at Three Rivers Stadium).''
Porter also got ejected before a game in Cleveland after a dust-up with running back William Green. Yes, Porter should have an effect on Jones.
"(Jarvis) has put in a lot of work, too,'' Butler said. "He's trying to get stronger. If you watch his progression from the beginning of the season to the later part of the season, he improved quite a bit. (So), I think he'll be a lot better. He pretty much didn't know where to line up last year. If somebody wasn't there to tell him, he probably was a half a second slow.''
Butler also had encouraging words about Sean Spence, who has missed his initial two NFL seasons due to a severe knee injury during the final preseason game in 2012. Butler said he was "real encouraged by the way he looks.''