The Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base is angry, and rightfully so, after two straight disappointing seasons. There is a growing contingent of the fan base who wants Mike Tomlin gone, but other than the head coach, the next coach fans want gone is none other than defensive coordinator Keith Butler.
But will it happen?
As the organization has already cut ties with outside linebacker coach Joey Porter, and running back coach James Saxon, fans want to know when the news will be announced that Butler’s services, like Todd Haley’s last year, will no longer be needed in Pittsburgh.
The more time goes by, the less likely it is Butler will be going anywhere.
While the simple thought of this taking place makes Steelers fans want to get their torches and pitchforks, it all comes down to loyalty with head coach Mike Tomlin. The connection between Tomlin, Butler and even Randy Fichtner runs extremely deep.
Just watch this video:
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The roots run deep between this trio of Steelers coaches, and it clearly would take a lot to have Tomlin relieve one of them from their duties. Just for clarification, I’m not suggesting the Steelers, or Tomlin, wouldn’t, or won’t, fire Butler, but with each moment passing where his job is safe, it makes it less and less likely his job is in jeopardy.
Another aspect of this entire mess is how Butler does have some statistics to hang his hat on when it comes to meetings with Tomlin and Art Rooney II. The most impressive statistic would be their 52 sacks recorded in 2018. This mark had them tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for tops in the league, and combined with the 56 recorded in 2017, the 108 sacks over a two year span is an astounding mark.
Say what you want about Butler, but he knows how to put his players in position to get after the quarterback.
The Steelers finishing the regular season 6th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 96.1 yards per game, is another area where Butler’s team didn’t let him down — despite having some gaffes in this area throughout the year.
Even the team’s pass defense wasn’t as bad as many might believe. The 10th ranked unit averaged 231 yards per game, making you question the ongoing narrative of how porous the Steelers’ secondary was the past season.
But with the good comes the bad, and boy is there a lot of bad when it comes to Butler’s defenses. The 15 total takeaways, 8 interceptions and 7 fumble recoveries, was tied for 29th in the league, and a large reason why his unit was never able to get off the field in critical situations throughout the season.
On top of that, when the team averages over 20 points per game, it is a sign of the boat leaking some proverbial fluids. Is the Steelers’ defense completely broken? No, but does it need fixing? Absolutely.
The majority want Butler gone, and with each passing day the Steelers don’t make a move, the likelihood of Butler staying goes up significantly. Can the Steelers bring back Butler, expecting a different result? Can they bring back Butler and hope he can successfully put together a defense which is known for more than just accumulating sacks?
These are questions which are part of a much larger cog. A lot depends on whether the team can add talent via free agency and through the 2019 NFL Draft to complete the cupboard for Butler to work with. Many will suggest adding talent won’t matter, considering what we’ve seen from Butler over the past few seasons, but fans should prepare themselves for Butler to be retained...
...don’t kill the messenger.