Bevy of LBs has Steelers' Butler beaming
No one was happier with the Steelers' bounty from the recent NFL Draft than linebackers coach Keith Butler.
The Steelers selected three linebackers, including two outside 'backers — Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson — among their top four selections.
"Glory hallelujah!'' Butler joked after the Steelers drafted Stevenson Sylvester in the fifth round, the third linebacker selected for Butler to coach.
Even before the draft, the Steelers were well-stocked at linebacker. There are veterans James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Andre Frazier on the outside, and James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote and Keyaron Fox inside.
But where the majority of those linebackers, with the exception of Timmons, are better known for their smarts and positioning on the field, Worilds, Gibson and Sylvester offer an element the Steelers have been lacking — speed.
"Speed, but more than anything else he was fluid,'' Butler said in describing Worilds, whose 4.51 time in the 40-yard dash at Virginia Tech's pro day makes him the fastest outside linebacker on the Steelers' roster.
"He's a fast, fast-playing, aggressive, play-hard kid,'' Butler said about Stevenson, who's being asked to make the transition from college outside linebacker to inside 'backer in the pros.
Butler's ability to instruct and fit young linebackers into defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's complicated schemes ranks him among the league's top assistants.
"A lot of times guys like (Worilds) have played defensive end all these years (in college), and all they've done is put their hand on the ground and looked at offensive tackles and tight ends are not seeing the whole picture,'' said Butler, who joined the Steelers staff in 2003.
"The thing that's hardest for these guys is to adjust to formations and number counts we use in terms of how we cover receivers — figuring out where they line up. The NFL is getting more creative with its formations, with all the unbalanced stuff. I think there's going to be even more of an emphasis to where you line up.''
Butler and coach Mike Tomlin previously worked together at Memphis in 1996, where Butler was the linebackers/defensive end/special teams coach and Tomlin was the defensive backs coach.
A linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks from 1978-87, where he still ranks second in franchise history in career tackles, Butler is viewed as more than a coach by his players because of his ability to relate to them.
It's what endears Butler to Farrior, a co-captain who makes the defensive calls.
"The thing about him is he was a ballplayer — he played linebacker,'' Farrior said. "He usually knows why we make mistakes. He's able to relate on a totally different level than another coach would because he's been in every situation we've been in.''
Farrior said players were concerned when Butler received an opportunity in January to become the Miami Dolphins' defensive coordinator. Butler turned down the offer to remain with the Steelers.
"I was keeping up real close with that situation. It was going to be a big change for us. I know his ultimate goal is probably one day to be a head coach. We definitely didn't want him to leave, but we understood,'' Farrior said.
"We all work well together because he has a good understanding of everything that we're going through and everything that goes on on the football field. That gives us a different level of respect over a coach that didn't play the game.''
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger still hurting after hard hit from Ravens’ Upshaw
- Steelers notebook: RT Gilbert not in danger of losing his job
- Steelers’ Brown combats disruptive defensive ploys
- Steelers veteran defenders want young teammates to step up
- Big Ben’s struggles emblematic of loss
- Steelers not receiving big returns on their offseason investments
- Mistakes multiply for Steelers in rout by Ravens
- Steelers notebook: Defense sags in NFL rankings because of struggles against the run
- Steelers intrigued by athleticism of free agent Jones
- Steelers film session: Missed tackles prove costly
- Steelers notebook: NFL fines Brown for kick to face