Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers defensive assistant Keith Butler has been nominated as a finalist for the Paul “Dr Z” Zimmerman Award by the Pro Football Writers of America, the organization announced this week. The award is given annually for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL.
The other finalists are Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, former San Fransisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, former Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers and 49ers offensive line coach Bobb McKittrick and former New York Giants, 49ers, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Floyd Peters.
Butler retired at the end of the 2021 season after 23 years in the NFL, the last 19 of which were with the Steelers. Butler was hired by then-Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher as linebacker coach in 2003. He stayed on under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau when Cowher retired and was replaced by Mike Tomlin in 2007. Butler was promoted to defensive coordinator after LeBeau left the team in 2015.
With the Steelers, Butler helped develop linebackers such as James Harrison, James Farrior, Joey Porter, Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons, T.J. Watt and LaMarr Woodley, and he won two Super Bowls with the club as linebackers coach.
As a defensive coordinator, Butler’s unit led or tied for the NFL lead in sacks in his final five seasons, breaking the former NFL record of three straight such years.
Zimmerman covered the NFL for 29 years as Sports Illustrated’s lead pro football writer and is considered one of the greatest football writers ever.
The award was founded in 2014 and is frequently given out to more than one recipient per year. LeBeau and Steelers wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator Tom Moore were both winners in 2015.