Reader Homework: Keith Butler Talks Linebackers & You Listen

I could listen to Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau talk football for hours, but a close second to him is linebackers coach Keith Butler. I was going back through some post draft interviews tonight of Butler after the draft selections of Jason Worilds, Stevenson Sylvester and Chris Carter to refresh my memory on what he said on each and if I could pick up any clues as it might relate to the draft this year. Yes, I have way too much time on my hands, but it keeps my mind occupied and helps with my OCD battles.

Below are the three videos I want you to watch and I want your thoughts on anything that you pick up from them. Tell me what you hear in addition that may play into the 2012 draft. It is always fun to go back in time and hear what was said about draft picks a few years down the line.

So get busy with your homework and let me know what is running through your head after listening to all of these again. There is no wrong answer here.

Butler on Jason Worilds
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Butler on Sylvester
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Butler on Carter
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  • Clintmartin

    I didn’t realize Sylvester started game against Patriots last year. Wow Steelers won’t be taking a middle linebacker with first pick!! They are ready for Foote and Sylvester to take over!
    This is why the let Farrior go before draft. If they didn’t feel comfortable with there young guys
    Farrrior probably would have been resigned.

    The other thing I got from this is they like to take Tweeners for the outside position and let them develop into stand up outside backers. Like Lamar Woodley, he has good size for outside in a 3-4 but not for a DE. doesn’t fit well into a 4-3 backer.

  • Andrew

    Worilds — no indications that Butler considered him at inside upon Worilds being drafted. Wonder how Dave-Te’ Thomas can be such a staunch believer that Worilds can be our long-term solution inside.
    Sylvester — good to hear Butler thinks he has tools to be “good” in coverage and a bright future (after one season)

    As far as the draft, you’ve touched on this as well, but if we do draft a LB early, it will speak volumes on these young guys and their progressions. If they see Sly as the long term solution next to Timmons, I can’t imagine Hightower being the pick. Likewise, if they believe Worilds/Carter can develop into a productive starter to assume Harrison’s spot in a year or two, drafting Perry or Upshaw (if either drops) would seem more like a luxury. Lastly, an early pick at LB would be really investing a lot of money into one position. I would assume that could be a factor too.

  • burghball

    Good stuff from Butler – One word that I hear/see fans using too much when talking/writing about the upcoming draft is the word “need”. Keith said it best in the video on Sly – Best Player Available.. Sly was that player(BPA) on the steelers board and Butler was happy to get him… As we evaluate this prior to this draft and mock it.. More emphasis needs to be on who is going to be the Best Player Available in a round at our pick. After listening to Dave Te’Thomas yesterday and Butler today – I’m more comfortable with the Worilds pick also – I wasn’t when we drafted him. The word s still out on Carter – I thought when watching him in College that he was a speed rusher.. Butler backed that up – Will he develop into something other than that? time will tell.. Keith also talks about speed a few times and the ability to cover – flip hips etc.. That’s why for me kids like Bobby Wagner, Kendricks, and L.David are players that we need to be looking at second round… and should be high on the board (might be off) when we pick at #56.

  • On thing I took away, from the clip on Sly, is that the Steelers aren’t looking for a 265lb inside linebacker. Sounded like Butler has a lot of confidence in Larry Foote, and even more confidence in the development in Sly. There was also a lot of emphasis on the phrase “movement skills”. Butler also stated repeatedly, that the development time for his LB’s, is a couple of years.

    When talking about Worilds, I heard the words “depth” and “special teams” used a lot.

  • Dave, after listening to the last clip, it sounded like Butler had more concerns with the depth at OLB, than he was ILB.

  • SteelersDepot

    You all get an A+ so far. Especially you Greig. More people, more…

  • Jprankster2005

    I would have to say that now I could say Hightower aint going to be picked at 24….. But we will see…….

  • SteelersDepot

    Anyone convinced that the 24th pick will be a ILB or OLB right now? What are the chances in your opinion after listening to all three.

  • SteelersDepot

    Personally not buying the Worilds move. Love Dave-Te, but he is a bit flighty at times. we shall see

  • Gordon Etter

    The second interview about Sylvester said it all about how they draft…”we had a need at corner, but we took the BPA and it just happened to be a LB”

  • burghball

    Not convinced at all – again – we need to use the word “need” less and BPA more. This has been the steelers MO over the years and who can argue with our success?

    Now – I’m going to stir the pot a little and throw a name at ya for #24.. A kid that totally dominated the North Offensive Linemen at the senior bowl and may have been the best defensive line player at the Senior bowl.. Also throw in Ziggy Hood and his seeming not to be the 3-4 DE we thought he was going to develop into.. and the fact that your list of 10 players that you had slated at #24 – each one we can find an area that makes us uncomfortable with the pick.. like Poe’s motor, Hightower’s ACL and coverage skills, Mercilus one year wonder, etc.. and this kid suddenly becomes real attractive to me. Especially with the non-devleopment of Ziggy ( who is a player I think better suited for a 4-3 DT).

    Kendall Reyes DE/DT
    6’4″ 299lbs
    40 – 4.79
    reps – 36

    We have seen Keisel drop in coverage – with his type of speed , faster than some of the LB’s in the draft, and size. something to think about…

    I’ve seen the 3-4 DE ranked Fletcher Cox, Brockers, Reyes.. I like Reyes over Brockers. He’s stronger, faster and there is way more really good film on Reyes.

    food for thought.

  • Jprankster2005

    I don’t think they will unless the BPA lands to them….. I see them trading down to be honest to late or early second……

  • Jprankster2005

    Sounds to me that Sylvester could fit in to be the primary ILB next yr…… And that there content with Foote and Sylvester this yr. And they seem to draft BPA period……. But I do believe after listening they will bring in someone either Draft or FA to compete….. They want competion at every position….. And Sylvester and Foote will probably battle it out for the spot… And it sounds to me if Worilds lives up to expectation he will be a good replacement for harrison but if he doesn’t have a good yr. this yr. I don’t think he will be around next….. Carter I don’t think will ever start unless there are major injuries….. But after all I’ve heard It’s a throw up to who they take in round 1 because sounds like they got 2 guys that are unproven and want to see what they can do…… So I don’t think they will draft Hightower…… He says he felt good with the players he had so far, But that was with Farrior there as well but I don’t think they will be looking for there next 10 yr. starting ILB in this draft by what I heard….. I like how u put these up….. If you get a chance do some more on other positions.. Maybe Corner and Safety….

  • JasonDC

    Yeah weight seems to be a concern for Butler with LBs. Sounded like he would be more content to have a fast, small ILB, who gets occasional help taking down larger RBs than someone like Hightower. Although, I am not sold on anyone’s confidence in Larry Foote. I don’t see him being the starter past game six.

  • Jprankster2005

    And the main thing they don’t start Rookie LB’s period…… So they will move forward with Foote and Sylvester…… I am surpirsed Foote didn’t take some what of a pay cut though.. But maybe they want to see if Sylvester can cut it and if not bring Foote back for a couple yrs..

  • Sonny

    Upshaw from Bama?

  • Grw1960

    I still think either ILB or DE/OLB is a possibility at 24.
    Do I think the Steelers want a LB over other positions at 24?
    No I don’t.
    But BPA is the “Key answer” that only the Steelers have.
    What available players will be holding that place on their draft board when the time comes to turn in the card?
    There is one open position at ILB now. Though it is as a trainee to be Foote’s replacement.
    Foote and Harrison have maybe 2 more years.
    If it takes 2 years to get a LB ready They would need to start drafting LBs for 2014.
    No one knows what they think of Worilds or Carter at this point .

  • Gordon Etter

    OK knowing their draft history of taking the BPA regardless of need, who do you have listed as the Steelers board of BPA when the 1:24 selection rolls around? and who IS the BPA of that group?

  • moderatelysane

    I’m not buying this as evidence against taking ILB in the first. These comments from Butler were at least a year ago, and they’re about potential rather than what these guys have really done on the field. I took a look back at your participation charts from last year. Sly only had two games where he got any significant snaps, despite dressing for 15 games:

    Game Snaps Stats Comments
    Ratbirds 0 0 All LB healthy
    Seasqua 0 0 All LB healthy
    Colts 0 0 All LB healthy
    Texans 0 0 Harrison injured, Worilds in
    Titans 0 0 Harrison out, Timmons at OLB, Foote and Farrior both on field
    Jaguars 0 0 Harrison out, Timmons at OLB, Foote and Farrior both on field
    Cardinals 0 0 Harrison out, Timmons at OLB, Foote and Farrior both on field
    Patsies 10 0 Woodley injured, Farrior out, Harrison out, played mostly nickel
    Ratbirds 19 0 Woodley out, Worilds in, Farrior out
    Bengals 0 0 Woodley out, Worilds in
    Chiefs 0 0 Woodley out, Worilds in, Sylvester did not dress
    Bengals 0 0 Woodley limited, Worilds in
    Browns 0 0 Woodley out, Worilds in
    49ers 2 1TA Woodley out, Worilds in
    Rams 0 0 Woodley out, Worilds in
    Browns 0 0 Woodley out, Worilds in
    Broncos 0 0 Woodley limited, Foote Farrior in

    after the Patsies game, he was said to be lost. His snaps all came at the beginning of the game, after which they switched to big nickel and dime. Perhaps that was because he sucked or perhaps not. His other game was against the Ratbirds, where he got 19 snaps and zero tackles. That’s kind of hard to do for an ILB, and he was also described as being mentally lost after that game. What surprised me in looking at this was the games against the Titans, Jags, Cards. Remember when Harrison was out and Timmons had to move to OLB (and was terrible)? Even though he dressed for those games, Sly couldn’t see the field or be better than Foote. Now Foote is experienced, but he’s really not all that good, so not beating him out is not a ringing endorsement.

    Bottom line, Sly has shown no evidence of his ability to take over ILB. He may have increased his development to the point at which he can now, but he’s unproven. I think it’s unlikely that the office will bank on him as a starter, so if Hightower is the BPA at 1.24, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken. I think he may very well be the BPA at that position, too.

  • moderatelysane

    My mock has the BPA at 1.24 including: Hightower, Mercilus, Perry, Fleener, Upshaw or Coples, Stephen Hill. I think it would be a great idea to trade down if there are takers and it allows us to get an extra high round 3; there’s a lot of value in high 3, and I’d love to see Chapman there.

  • I think the Steelers have their sites on Mike Martin.

  • Bert

    Foote isn’t a long term solution, but could be the answer this season. Sly might be able to take over but that is far from clear at this point. If Kendricks, Wagner, JM Johnson or David are available and deemed BAA, then such a selection could be beneficial down the road. Listing to Mr. Thomas yesterday was interesting and informative, but I took some of his views with a grain of salt. To think that Worilds could move inside seems peculiar to say the least; he hasn’t really shown all that much at OLB yet. I also took exception to the comment that “Robert Turbin is the next Jerome Bettis.” What? I don’t really see Michael Brockers being a first round consideration for the Steelers either.


    Things that were said (and not said) that play into the 2012 draft, I believe was the solicitation. I kept hearing about actual game film as the primary consideration, then interviews and personal workouts with the Steelers. If The Combine was mentioned, it was only in passing. GAME FILM !!! Also with respect to the draft, particularly with Butler mentioning several times that they allow a couple of years for development, I think they are high enough on Sylvester that the selection of Hightower will not occur, especially considering the perceived negatives of his coverage skills and injury. One take away for me of which I was aware, but he really drove home the point, was the alignment of the front 7. Farrior’s understanding and ability in this area is no doubt what bought him an extra year or two despite his obviously diminished physical abilities. Looks like Foote will start the season because of his knowledge of the defense and they will provide intense study for Sylvester, hoping he can take over as the starter during the season. Sylvester obviously has the better physical talents but Foote currently has better comprehension of how the coaches want the set. Sylvester’s opportunity to start will depend on his learning curve, not his physical prowess.

    Worilds and Carter may not be panning out the way they had hoped, and thus the interest in some new blood at OLB fairly early in the draft. If the front office has indeed approached Worilds about playing ILB, it could be because they don’t see his future at OLB. I don’t see it at ILB.

    We all easily say the delay in the start of training last year hindered the development of some of the new guys, but words cannot do it justice for those of us not actually involved with the team. What gets exposed in the unfolding of this year’s pre-season activities will be as entertaining as any year in the past.

    Lastly, why is Butler not a Head Coach somewhere? This is the first opportunity I have had to hear him speak and the man reeks of football presence and gravitas. When Mr. LeBeau decides to move on, I have to believe our beloved defense will be in good hands.


    I neglected to mention above how Butler kept reiterating the Steelers mantra of ‘Best Player Available’ as opposed to need. We can all forget about those things we perceive as needs for the team; the picks will come straight from the FO’s big board of talent. Is it possible…..could they………would they…………….might they………………take a TE in the first round?

  • kyle

    I imagine your point with this is to prove that the Steelers won’t take Hightower. I watched these videos back when they were first released and it was easier to remember then that this was right after the draft. Coach Butler is extremely measured in his responses. He’s honest but he’s also saying what he’s supposed to say about kids they just drafted. For instance, in the Worilds video he says he likes Sean Lee but they didn’t take him because they felt good about the depth at ILB but in the Sylvester video from the same draft he says they drafted him as an ILB because he was the best player on the board. The fact that a kid they took in the 5th is rangy and quick does not preclude this team from taking Hightower. At what point in their careers would you define Foote or Farrior as quick?

  • Jeff from Monessen

    I think its a little early to say Carter may not be panning out. He was a rookie last year selected in the 5th round. I would imagine they expected a year or two to develop him.