Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Dick LeBeau has been a legend on and off the field. A dominating player, an innovative coach, and franchise favorite. Will the Steelers be ready to say goodbye?
Should this be the last year that Dick LeBeau coaches the Steelers defense, they might not miss a beat. Linebacker coach, Keith Butler, is heir apparent to the defensive coordinator position and is working with a group of linebackers with a pedigree any coach would envy. Come Sundays this fall, three first-rounders and a second-rounder will be on the field for the Steelers at the linebacker positions. The oldest of the group just turned 28 in May.
To help all that young talent through any continuing growing pains, the Steelers brought in former linebacker Joey Porter. Should Coach Porter prove that he is up to the task as a defensive assistant through 2014 he might be up for a promotion after one year.
Assuming 2014 is the last year for LeBeau, Butler will vacate his linebacker coaching position and take over as DC. Porter would then take over the linebackers. Seeing as this unit should be the strength of the defense, Butler should have an easy time coordinating, as he will have the most intimate knowledge of the four most important—and potentially most talented—players on the field.
Given their youth and pedigree, the Steelers linebackers could be together for another four years—contracts, health, and performance pending.
Given that the person with the most knowledge of LeBeau’s defense other than LeBeau himself is likely Butler, this transition might not be all that difficult. Butler has been a coach under LeBeau for the past decade. In that time, Butler has sent 5 different linebackers to the Pro Bowl and one has won Defensive Player of the Year.
The key part of the transition would be Porter as the LBs coach. Porter will only have been an NFL assistant for a year come 2015. Having the former linebacker coach, Butler, as the defensive coordinator would certainly help that transition, but Porter needs to prove himself as a coach and not just a motivator.
The tough transition is already happening. That is the influx of new, young players. The Steelers will have to overcome some of the difficulties that come with youth and lack of chemistry. Should the Steelers iron out any of those issues throughout the 2014 season, then a transition to Butler as a defensive coordinator should be an easy one. If LeBeau doesn’t retire after the 2014 season, the Steelers need to do everything they can to keep Butler on the staff—they aren’t the only team that values him as a coordinator.
Hopefully, LeBeau will get back to working his magic in 2014. There was a significant amount of time, money, and picks spent to infuse the defense with youth and talent.