The Pittsburgh Steelers' overhaul of their coaching staff will not include Keith Butler. Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator since 2015, Butler has been given a one-year contract, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Last week, the Steelers chose not to renew the contracts of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley. The Steelers are expected to promote Matt Canada to offensive coordinator. After 25 years in college, Canada served as the Steelers' quarterbacks coach for the 2020 season.
The changes to the coaching staff are a result of Pittsburgh's disappointing finish to the 2020 season. After an 11-0 start, the Steelers won just one of their final six games. They fell behind 28-0 before ultimately dropping their wild-card playoff game against the Browns, 48-37. Injuries, dropped passes and a 32nd ranked rushing attack were the main reasons why the Steelers fizzled following their 11-0 start. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he would search for answers this offseason after watching his team stumble in December for a fourth consecutive year.
Pittsburgh's defense lost starting inside linebacker Devin Bush to a torn ACL in Week 6. They lost starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree to the same injury in Week 11. They were forced to play without starting cornerback Joe Haden after he tested positive for COVID-19 prior to their wild-card loss to Cleveland. Those losses contributed to the Steelers' lack of forced turnovers during their final six games. After forcing 23 turnovers during its 11-0 start, Pittsburgh's defense forced just four turnovers during its 1-5 stretch. They failed to force a turnover in consecutive losses to Cleveland, who defeated the Steelers in the playoffs for the first time in the rivalry's long history.
Despite some of the personnel losses, Butler's unit finished the 2020 season as the NFL's top-ranked unit in interceptions and sacks. Pittsburgh's defense also finished third in the league in points, total yards and passing yards allowed, fifth in third-down efficiency and sixth in red zone efficiency. The unit was anchored by outside linebackers T.J. Watt (15 sacks) and Dupree (eight sacks), linemen Stephon Tuitt (11 sacks) and Cam Heyward, cornerbacks Haden (two interceptions, 12 passes defensed) and Mike Hilton (three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, three sacks), and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (four interceptions, 11 passes defensed).
The 2021 season will be Butler's 19th season with the Steelers' organization. An inside linebacker with the Seahawks from 1978-87, Butler's coaching career started as Memphis' linebackers coach in 1990. As Arkansas State's defensive coordinator in 1998, he met a young defensive backs coach named Mike Tomlin, who would promote Butler from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh 17 years later.
Butler served as the Browns' linebackers coach from 1999-02 before assuming that role with the Steelers in 2003. Butler won two Super Bowls in that role while working with several former Pro Bowlers in Joey Porter, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, and 2008 Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.