Expect different look from Steelers defense in 2015
January 12, 2015 12:00 AM
It remains to be seen who Mike Tomlin's defensive coordinator will be next year for the Steelers.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Dick LeBeau is gone as Steelers defensive coordinator, and so might some of the schemes he used in the 12 seasons he was in charge of the defense.
Even if the Steelers promote linebackers coach Keith Butler to replace LeBeau, the defense could have a different look in 2015 -- including getting more input from coach Mike Tomlin, a former defensive coordinator.
The process of replacing LeBeau is expected to begin today when Butler meets with Tomlin to discuss the position. Butler's three-year contract with the team expired at the end of this past season.
LeBeau, 77, who had been the Steelers defensive coordinator for 13 seasons in two different stints with the team, resigned Friday after reaching what he called a "mutual agreement" with Tomlin. But LeBeau said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he is merely resigning, not retiring -- indicating he may have been asked to leave.
The Steelers would like to retain some continuity in their defense by hiring Butler, who has been the linebackers coach since 2003 and has long been considered the heir apparent to LeBeau..
But they also want to change what they do defensively after the Steelers struggled the past two seasons stopping the run, preventing the deep pass and sacking the quarterback.
The Steelers ranked 18th in total defense in 2014, down from No. 13 in 2013. While their run defense improved from 23rd to sixth, their pass defense dropped from ninth to 27th. Their sacks also declined from 34 to 33.
That could mean even more input next season from Tomlin, a former defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings.
For the first time since he was hired in 2007, Tomlin was more involved in the defensive planning this season -- the first sign he was seeking to change how the Steelers play on defense.
Butler and Tomlin have a history of working together that pre-dates their time with the Steelers.
Butler was the defensive coordinator at Arkansas State in 1998 when Tomlin was the defensive backs coach. Two years earlier, they were on the same staff together at University of Memphis.
If Butler is promoted, the Steelers could promote one of two defensive assistants -- Jerry Olsavsky or Joey Porter, both former linebackers -- to linebackers coach. Olsavsky has been in that role for five seasons; Porter joined the team before this season.
Tomlin gave the coaches off this week and they are not supposed to report back to work until Jan. 19 to prepare for the Senior Bowl.
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @gerrydulac.
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