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Split linebacker coaches could equate to success for Steelers high pedigree units

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have invested a lot of high draft picks in their linebacking corps since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach. Why a change in coaching staff might make the world of difference, in terms of success, for this group of linebackers.

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As Keith Butler settles in as the defensive coordinator, one thing certainly will be different for the defense heading into 2015 compared to years past. The main change was the promotion of both defensive assistants Joey Porter and Jerry Olsavsky to linebackers coaches. They aren't sharing the role, rather they are each coaching the same linebacker group where they played when they donned the black and gold during their playing days. Porter will coach the outside linebackers and Olsavsky the inside linebackers. However, such a change doesn't go without an acclimation period.

"Last year, we were all together, so that's definitely a change now," Lawrence Timmons told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "But I think it's for the better. Everybody gets more one-on-one time, so we should grow from that."

Other than changes in meetings, the one-on-one coaching Timmons referred to might just be the elixir which the linebacking corps needs to take the next step in their maturation.

"We get a lot more done, because I don't have to stop and talk about the inside linebackers during my meeting," Porter said. "When the (inside) and outside 'backers are together, you can only cover so much. When I just have my guys, we just talk about their responsibilities and what they have to do. I only need to grade two guys at a time, as opposed to four.

"In the game, it's easier for me to focus on two outside linebackers. We cover more, we get more done and it works well. Especially when it comes to teaching the young guys, I get so much more done."

No one would know the difference the change will make to the coaching staff more than Butler. After all, he coached the linebackers for the majority of Dick LeBeau's tenure in Pittsburgh and had to focus on all four positions in the team's 3-4 scheme.

"They can talk specifically to the inside linebackers or outside linebackers, so they can cover a little bit more than I did," Butler said. "When I coached the linebackers I always tried to give them a concept — an overall view of what was going on with the defense, and why they had to do the things they were doing, and how they fit within the scheme of the defense.

"Now, (Porter and Olsavsky) can be a little more personable and give a little bit more detail about their assignments."

Such a change might seem minor to the average fan, but for anyone who has played sports at a high level, the more one-on-one time you can spend with a coach the more prepared you will be for the game itself. Let's not forget, the Steelers have paid a heavy cost at the linebacker position since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach. Timmons, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree are all first round draft picks, and don't think the players don't realize what comes with such a tag.

If the Steelers want their defense to return to a respectable status in 2015, the play of their linebackers will be a large part of the success, or failure, of the defense as a whole. The team has play makers at the position, and hopefully this slight change in the coaching staff will make a difference in the play on the football field.