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Keith Butler Apprehensive about Inside Linebacker Depth: ‘That’s Still in Question’



PITTSBURGH – When Vince Williams retired, the Steelers inside linebacker depth took an obvious hit. With a lot of unproven guys in Ulysees Gilbert III, Marcus Allen, and Buddy Johnson competing for time, it was obvious there would be a competition for who could step up in that room. However, that room up to this has struggled a bit. Even Johnson, who looks promising, might just be a little too green to throw out there right away. On Saturday, defensive coordinator Keith Butler seemed apprehensive about his depth behind Devin Bush and Robert Spillane.

“We’ve got to see what’s going on there,” Butler said. “We’ve got to find out who’s going to be our best backups. Right now, that’s still in question, I think.”

Perhaps the biggest indictment on how Butler feels about the depth is that he seemed to indicate there is no plan to rotate Allen or Johnson onto higher teams from where they are now to see what they can bring. Gilbert has been running as the de facto third linebacker as of now. When asked if Johnson or Allen could get more snaps against those higher teams, Butler shrugged it off quickly.

“I rotate nobody if I don’t think they can play,” Butler said.

So, then it would appear that he may be more than pleased with what Gilbert has brought to the table. Still, that does not appear to be the case. Butler instead appears apprehensive about that, too.

“Uly’s been okay, but he’s got some competition too,” Butler said.

Butler seemed noncommital about adding someone outside the organization, as well. He believes that is up to Kevin Colbert, but the hint may already be there.

“That’s not up to me,” Butler said. “That’s up to the head man, Kevin”

Regardless of how this all shakes out, it appears that Butler is not too happy with his inside linebacker depth as it stands. Whether that prompts the Steelers linebackers to play at a higher level or acquire someone’s services from outside the organization will have to be watched.