Keith Butler Sees Terence Garvin As The New Stevenson Sylvester

Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler thinks that second-year former undrafted free agent Terence Garvin has a future as a starter in this league.

That is what he said to Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider earlier this summer prior to the month-long break leading up to training camp.

The veteran position coach seemed effusive in his praise of the player who was forced to earn a roster spot on a tryout basis during rookie minicamp last year when all 32 teams failed to sign him following the draft.

Then again, former WVU players have a history of making it onto this roster the hard way, as Garvin’s former teammate, fullback Will Johnson, knows firsthand.

Having entered the draft during the lockout season, the third-year player went undrafted, and during the lockout, teams were not allowed to sign free agents, including undrafted free agents.

Johnson failed to catch on with any team later that year when the lockout ended, and it took his old university allowing him to attend their pro day the next year in order for him to get a chance, when the Steelers saw his workout and decided to bring him in.

Garvin, too, has learned how difficult it can be to make your way in this league. He knows how crucial special teams is to his position, which is why he put so much into his craft last year and became one of the team’s best performers in the third phase of the game.

But if Butler is to believed, the day will come when he won’t have to be the one chasing down kick returners, even if it seems hard to imagine on the Steelers, given the depth that Garvin is currently staring up at.

Lawrence Timmons is entering his eighth season, but doesn’t appear to be slowing down any. Ryan Shazier looks to be the first defensive rookie to start in over a decade, while last year’s starter, Vince Williams, returns, as does Sean Spence.

For now, Butler says that he sees Garvin as his new Stevenson Sylvester, which he’s always seemed to have an affinity for, which partially explains his frequent criticisms over the years.

Garvin began to take over that role last season, and looks to complete the transfer this year.

Though he’s not the biggest linebacker (he prefers the nickname ‘Big Safety’ to ‘Little Linebacker’, he told Wexell), Garvin is capable of playing both inside and outside at linebacker, which he did last season.

As the season wore on, he began to see a snap here and there, which culminated in the penultimate game that saw him injure his knee and caused him to miss the season finale.

Nothing is given, however, and as with every year, there is new competition. Aside from Shazier, the Steelers also drafted Jordan Zumwalt, who would seem to have a very similar description on paper: a versatile inside-outside linebacker with a special teams demeanor. He also has the advantage of having played in a similar system in college.

With the accolades of Butler fresh in mind, it’s hard to imagine Garvin not making the roster this season, but stranger things have happened.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • dgh57

    If all else fails Garvin move him to Safety so he can truly live up to his nickname “Big Safety”! He played some at that position in College and we could use a guy his size at the position to take on TEs the likes of the Gronks of the NFL.

  • steeltown

    I could actually see Garvin and Zumwalt both make the roster, as #9 and #10 pending their contributions on special teams and then trying to stash H.Jones on the PS

  • colingrant

    1) Disrespect not intended towards Stevenson Sylvester, who provided a serviceable period of utility-backup play and was above the line on special teams. But if Garvin’s the new Sylvester, the Steelers’ have gained nothing in that exchange. Let’s hope he’s more. Butler’s comments hints to that as a possibility.

    2) Tomlin nicknamed him “Big Safety”. Over the years’, I’ve seen something of a trend with his nicknaming. Tomlin’s grown an affinity for the player who has earned it through distinguishing themselves, lending the thought that Tomlin and staff believing they may have unearthed more from the player than originally expecting, or the player is simply and consistently being all they can be, and more.

    3) Garvin’s nickname (yes, i’m still speculating on the nickname, lol) might clue us in on his value to the team as seen by the staff. Any linebacker with athletic qualities of a safety is perfect for what Butler has proclaimed as the new breed of Steelers inside linebacker, that being a hybrid LB/Safety capable of running stride for stride with the Dennis Pitta’s of the world, without foregoing conventional linebacker responsibilities. Conceptually, with Sean Spence and Garvin backing up Timmons and Shazier, and with Garvin capable of playing on the outside if needed, the Steelers potentially have championship caliber depth in the middle. It was the lack of hybrid depth that forced the staff to play Troy closer to the line, which in turn compromised his play at his own position. The ability to effectively defend against the run while deploying pass defense packages/personnel, will be a cure one of their ailments from last year which was run defense in obvious pass situations. Opponents routinely converted 2nd and 8 or 9’s to 3rd & 1 or 2 etc., neutering the Steelers pressure packages which contributed to low turnover numbers.

    4) Being from Baltimore is the only think irking me about Garvin. Half kidding …. half…….. 🙂

  • wdhammer

    not saying much .