By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH -- Despite getting offers to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers for more money, coaching veteran Keith Butler remained with the club and finally was promoted to defensive coordinator after 11 seasons as the linebackers coach.
"My wife and I make the decisions together, but she got mad at me because I made this decision to stay here by myself,'' Butler said Thursday. "She got mad, because there were some people interested who were going to pay a lot more money. ... But we've always discussed it, and I've always valued her opinion.
"And we felt like this was always the place for us, even though were Southerners. We grew up in the South. Both of us grew up in the South, but we really like it here in Pittsburgh.''
The main reasons Butler has hung around were to continue to work for the Rooney family and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Butler has had a long relationship with both and even become aware of how beloved the Rooneys were by their players while he suited up for the Seattle Seahawks from 1978-87.
"When I played in Seattle, I went through a couple of (player) strikes,'' Butler said. "At the time, when I went through those strikes, I talked to some Steelers players. And they always didn't want to be on those strikes, because of the love of the Rooneys. The Rooneys have always been the premier of the league, in terms of trying to win a Super Bowl.
"And to me, if you're going to coach in this game, you want to win a Super Bowl. And I always thought that this was the best chance for me to win a Super Bowl as a coordinator would be here. So, that's one of the reason that I always stayed. The other reason is that Mike Tomlin is a great guy to work for.''
Tomlin was a graduate assistant coach (1996) when Butler was at Memphis (1990-97) and coached defensive backs at Akansas State in 1998 while Butler was the defensive coordinator. Obviously, Butler was the Steelers linebackers coach for several years when Tomlin became the head coach in 2007.
"Mike has a lot of experience coaching defense,'' Butler said. "He was a coordinator for Minnesota, so it would be foolish for me to not get advice or input from him when his input is needed. I don't know everything there is to know about defense, so I'm going to make some stupid calls out there.
"But I hope my players can cover up for me sometimes. But I would be crazy and arrogant to think I could do this without other coaches helping me.''
The Steelers previous defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, basically had free rein to make defensive decisions, and Butler believed Tomlin would afford him that opportunity as well. Butler apparently has run with it, because he said to expect some changes to the defense this year. He wouldn't get specific, only to say that he'll "let the Patriots figure that out.'' But he offered an idea.
"Some things that we did good last year, we have to marry the two things,'' Butler said. "The things that we did well last year with maybe some things that we haven't done before here. (And) I think we're getting better at it right now. We still have a long way to go, but I like what I'm seeing right now. Hopefully, it'll be even better in pads.''
While many are concerned with the Steelers secondary, Butler wanted to emphasize the club's front seven on defense.
"We've got a lot of draft choices in that front seven, and we've got to use those draft choices in our front seven,'' Butler said. "Not only in the linebackers, but in (ends) Cam (Heyward) and (Stephon) Tuitt. Those guys are talented guys, so we have to use them, too.
"We can't let them always take up for the linebackers or try to take people off the linebackers. We've got to let them play football, too. So, hopefully, we can employ everybody in this defense. Especially the front seven.''
Butler always has had a strong relationship with his linebacking corps, but he's hopeful that can be transcended throughout the entire defense.
"It's important that they know I care about them and that I will help them do well and be successful and be fair to them and be honest,'' Butler said. "That's the biggest thing for me, honesty as a coach.
"I always appreciated that from coaches that I've had, so I'm going to be honest with all of them. Sometimes, they won't like that honesty, but brutal honesty is a lot better than trying to hide something from somebody.''
Finally, Butler said that he will coach the Steelers from the field and not from the press box. He spent one game in the booth while coaching for the Cleveland Browns and couldn't provide a necessary response to one for his players when it was needed the most.
"I've seen the game from the field all my life, so I'm not about to go upstairs,'' Butler said. "I did that for one game, and I hated it. We were playing Cincinnati one time, and Dwayne Rudd was my linebacker.
"He took off his helmet after he made a big play on fourth down, and they threw a penalty (to give them a first down). Then, they kicked a field goal and beat us, and I couldn't dive out of that booth. So, that was the last time that I was upstairs.''