INDIANAPOLIS -- For the second time in three years, linebackers coach Keith Butler has decided to remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers rather than accept a position as a defensive coordinator for another franchise.
An Indianapolis Colts source confirmed late Monday night that Butler has canceled his Tuesday meeting with new coach Chuck Pagano and informed the team that he will not be a candidate for the coordinator post.
The decision by Butler to stay with the Steelers, where his contract had expired and the club could not have precluded him at all from accepting the Colts job, was first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"He was the guy ... and then he wasn't the guy anymore," a Colts source told The Sports Xchange via e-mail. "But he was definitely the man [Pagano] wanted. The interview was just a formality, really. I can only speculate as to what happened."
Later contacted by phone, the Colts' source said he did not think the Butler decision would be reversed. "I think we all pretty much know that he's sure that he'll be the coordinator [in Pittsburgh] at some point soon," he said.
Indeed, the move by Butler clearly establishes him as coordinator-in-waiting, which is an unofficial title he has basically held since '09, when he declined an opportunity to go to the Miami Dolphins as coordinator. Butler had also been denied permission two years ago to interview for the Arizona coordinator spot. Butler, 55, met with team president Art Rooney II and head coach Mike Tomlin on Monday, and received additional assurances that he will eventually replace Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, 74, as the club's defensive coordinator.
It is not known if the Steelers apprised Butler more concretely of a timetable for LeBeau's retirement. One of the game's legendary assistants, LeBeau said last week that he will return for the 2012 season. LeBeau has said in the past that he decides on his future on a year-by-year basis.
Whether the succession plan was actually written into Butler's new contract, which is for an undetermined period but clearly includes a raise, is not known. Sources said that Butler will likely receive a subsequent raise when he replaces LeBeau. There is certainly, at the very least, an understanding of Butler's role moving forward with the Steelers.
Butler has been with the Steelers since 2003. His retention probably means that Pittsburgh will continue to play a 3-4 defense for the foreseeable future. The fact that he was so avidly pursued by the Colts probably augers for Indianapolis' switch to a 3-4. The Colts have long been a 4-3 team, and their personnel has been geared for that front, but Pagano's background is primarily in a 3-4.
During a Monday news conference to discuss Indianapolis' preparations for Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday night, Colts owner Jim Irsay made no mention of the Butler decision, or, obviously, to whom the team will now turn.
The Colts did on Monday finalize a contract with former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to accept the same spot on Pagano's staff. Arians was the quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning, whose future remains very much up in the air, for the quarterback's first three seasons in the league.
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