Steelers Defense: Split Linebacker Coaches Key to Success?


Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. For the past few seasons the Steelers defense has been doing the same thing and getting worse results. Sacks are down, turnovers are down and the unit can’t get off of the field on third downs.

The Steelers defense is definitely aiming for different results this season by changing up the way they do things. Not only will Keith Butler be standing in the position Dick LeBeau had stood in for the past twelve years; but the linebackers will be separated by two separate coaches.

With the advancement of Keith Butler to Defensive Coordinator that left an open position to coach the linebackers. Instead of promoting one of the assistant coaches, the Steelers promoted both Jerry Olsavsky and Joey Porter. Porter will take the lead as the Outside Linebackers Coach and Olsavsky will coach the inside linebackers.

The Steelers haven’t gotten to the quarterback with the same regularity and fierceness that Steeler Nation has come to love for the past three seasons or so. In that same time the team has invested three years’ worth of first-round picks on linebackers. It’s time to get it right.

Will the split duties do the trick? They’ll have separate meetings and drills in camp but they’ll essentially be covering the same material, just from different spots on the field. Porter will get to mentor Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree while Jerry Olsavsky will be imparting his wisdom from his years as a Steelers linebacker on Ryan Shazier.

They won’t be separate all of the time. They’ll join together from time to time, according to Olsavsky who spoke to Chris Adamski of the Trib in June.

“…because we do the same job, just from different spots … because we are all Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers. That cloth is the same.” – Jerry Olsavsky

Olsavsky notes the advantages to splitting the group up and giving more individualized attention to the specific positions.

“If I was in the room like Butler last year and I had to take half the time for the outside guys and half the time for the inside guys, well, that’s cheating somebody. So I think this new setup is great.” – Jerry Olsavsky

Last season the Steelers had their lowest sack total in twenty five years with 33 total sacks. In order to get to the quarterback and send those numbers trending upward again it is time for a different approach. Enough of this fooling around, we need to get to the quarterback yesterday.

Jones has had an injury-marred introduction into the NFL and the times he was on the field he looked out of place and out of sync at times. Ryan Shazier also had injuries stifle his rookie season so a combination of good health and a simplified defense could let Steelers fans finally see these first-round investments pay off this year.

If this specialized coaching situation proves successful for the Steelers linebackers, perhaps they’d consider expanding it in the defense? Carnell Lake already coaches the Steelers secondary and he did play both cornerback and safety in his NFL career but with Ike Taylor joining the Steelers coaching staff as an intern this summer, maybe down the road he’ll be sharing secondary coaching duties with Lake?

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