If ever there was writing on the wall, Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler will take over as defensive coordinator when Dick Lebeau retires. The Steelers granted Butler permission to talk to Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt about the vacant defensive coordinator position with the Cardinals. Butler evidently did not take the job and instead decided to stay put with the Steelers although it’s not 100% clear if Butler was indeed offered the job. Butler enters his sixth year on the Steelers coaching staff after joining the coaching staff prior to the 2003 season. He remained on staff following the hire of head coach Mike Tomlin in January, 2007. Butler and Tomlin previously coached together at the University of Memphis in 1996, where Butler was the linebackers/defensive ends/special teams coach and Tomlin served as the defensive backs coach. Butler has played a big role in the development of the Steelers strong linebacking corps. The linebacker unit includes two Pro Bowl players, James Farrior and James Harrison and budding young stars in the likes of Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley.
Although there is no definite date of when LeBeau will retire, the speculation is rampant that 2009 will be his last season and a smooth transition would then be possible with Butler assuming the role of defensive coordinator. This will give Butler one more year of tutelage from the master with Butler likely to get even a bigger role in scheming throughout the 2009 season. Regardless if Butler turned down the Cardinal job or not, it will be good for the Steelers to keep a familiar face and promote from within to keep continuity.