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Keith Butler assesses the inside linebacker position heading into the 2021 season


(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)


Along with making it clear that the Steelers need a No. 3 outside linebacker, defensive coordinator Keith Butler also touched on the inside linebacker position when he spoke with the media today prior to their first minicamp practice.


"We'll have to see what Buddy (Johnson) can do," Butler said via Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. "He's coming from college. This is a faster game than college is. It's quicker, it happens fast. Everything happens fast here. So, Buddy's going to have to get used to that. I was real pleased with the way Robert played last year. I think he'll play just as well or better this year. We have to see what Devin Bush does when he comes back. We think he's going to be okay. He's done a good job of rehabbing his knee, but we still have to see how it's going to hold up. And that will tell us later in the preseason, if we can get a few games out of him in the preseason and see how his knee feels and get a gauge of where he's at, that will tell us how much we're going to play Vince, how much we're going to play Robert, how much we've got to play Devin, all of that."


Robert Spillane told reporters last week that he's looking forward to playing next to Devin Bush in 2021, as he didn't get many snaps next to him last year due to Bush suffering a season-ending ACL tear in Week 6 against the Browns. Spillane is projected to be the starter opposite of Bush this year.


"Adding a guy like Devin back to any team is a major attribute," Spillane said. "He is one of the top inside linebackers in the league. He can rush the passer, play the rundowns and also cover people. He is an all-around player, a guy you love to have on your team. He would make any team better. Getting him back is such a huge improvement to our already dominant 2020 defense.


"I am just so excited to play next to him. I didn't get many snaps next to him last year. Just to be on the field with him. We communicate well. We are good teammates to each other. I am very excited to get back on the field with him."


While Bush is still recovering from his ACL injury and working on a limited basis, Spillane says they still have been able to build chemistry with one another.


"We have also been working through walkthroughs which is good for our communication as well," Spillane said. "One thing me and Devin also have is communication off the field. We've been talking about this since the end of last season. We have an understanding with each other. We understand each other's skillsets. We're both very excited to get on the field together. I know he is gnawing at the bit to get back out there. He has been working his tail off all offseason, since the second he got injured, to come back and be the best linebacker he can be. I know that we'll figure out anything that goes on through the season like any two inside linebackers do."