PITTSBURGH — Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that the 2021 season might have been the last for longtime defensive coordinator Keith Butler, but stopped short of saying that he definitely will not return in his end-of-season press conference on Tuesday.
Butler, 65, has been with the Steelers since 2003 and has been defensive coordinator since 2015.
Tomlin said that Butler had spoken about it potentially being his final season, but that the two had not spoken at length on the subject since the season ended Sunday night in Kansas City.
“Butts has had conversations about this potentially being his last year,” Tomlin said. “He and I haven’t had an opportunity to sit down. I’m doing player interviews, he’s doing player interviews. We haven’t had a detailed conversation in that regard.”
Tomlin did not say that he would not like have to Butler back, and in fact said that he was not anticipating any further changes to his coaching staff from his end. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm has already left the team.
But he did acknowledged that the defense did not live up to his or the franchise’s expectations in 2021.
“Defensively, we didn’t play as well as we’d like, either,” he said. “We’ve got to be better in that area.”
Tomlin has had just two defensive coordinators in his 15 years as Steelers head coach, with Dick LeBeau running things from 2007-14 and Butler starting in 2015.
It had been reported this season that Tomlin had been doing most of the play calling on defense, and there was not a significant difference in the character of the unit when Butler missed the Week 18 game at Baltimore due to COVID-19 and Tomlin and senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin replaced him.