Steelers Defense staff is taking a hit

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The Steelers did not lose any assistant coaches from Mike Tomlin's staff after they made the playoffs in the 2007 season or when they won the Super Bowl in 2008.

But, after a 9-7 season in which they missed the playoffs and saw cracks and leaks develop in their once-fearsome defense, the Steelers have already lost one defensive assistant and could lose another.

Keith Butler, the team's linebackers coach for the past seven seasons and the person most likely to become defensive coordinator when Dick LeBeau eventually retires, has received permission to talk to the Miami Dolphins about becoming their defensive coordinator. Butler worked with Dolphins coach Tony Sparano when both were assistants with the Cleveland Browns in 1999-2000.

Also, Lou Spanos, a defensive assistant for the past 15 seasons, has agreed to become the linebackers coach for the Washington Redskins under new coach Mike Shanahan. The Redskins have hired former Steelers defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to install the 3-4 defense in Washington. Haslett, an Avalon native who played at IUP, worked with Spanos when the former was with the Steelers from 1997-99.

Meantime, Tomlin's search for a quarterbacks coach to replace the retired Ken Anderson might end internally. Wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner is a candidate for the job.

Fichtner was Rip Scherer's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Memphis, where he introduced the spread offense in 2001. But, maybe more important, moving Fichtner to quarterbacks coach would mean Ben Roethlisberger would not have to get up to speed on a new quarterbacks coach.

Also, Tomlin is considering former Buffalo Bills offensive line coach Sean Kugler as a replacement for Larry Zierlein, one of two assistants fired by Tomlin last week. Kugler was among the Bills' coaches who were all fired after the season.

NOTE -- Omar Khan, the team's football and business administration coordinator, interviewed Tuesday with new Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll about becoming their general manager. Khan is one of four known candidates for the position.

Post-Gazette sports writer Ed Bouchette contributed to this report.


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