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Keith Butler says Mike Tomlin was calling the defensive plays

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

After announcing his retirement on Saturday, Keith Butler revealed to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Mike Tomlin was actually the one calling the defensive plays even though Butler's title was defensive coordinator.

The topic of who called the defensive plays, Butler or Tomlin, has been an ongoing discussion over the last couple of seasons, but Butler made it clear that it wasn't him as he went out the door.

“I would have liked to do them myself, sure I would,” Butler said about calling the defensive plays. “I think everybody would. But Mike’s the head coach. He can do what he wants to do.”

Whenever the subject of calling defensive plays was brought up to Tomlin, he always said it was a collaborative effort between him and Butler.

The Steelers' run defense was horrendous in 2021, as they ranked last in the league in stopping the run, allowing 143.8 yards per game. They also allowed 5.0 yards per carry, which also ranked last.

So, since Butler wasn't the play-caller, you have to put more blame on Tomlin for not figuring out the run defense issues. In Tomlin's defense, however, the Steelers really missed Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu on the defensive line. Tomlin isn't using the injuries to Alualu and Tuitt as an excuse, though.

"We need to be better. I’m not comfortable with what we did against the run," Tomlin said. "I don’t think any of us are. That needs to improve. It will improve. We’ll plot a course to do so."

According to Aaron Wilson of the Pro Football Network, the Steelers are expected to promote senior defensive assistant and secondary coach Teryl Austin to defensive coordinator. A possible promotion of Austin isn't surprising, as that's how the Steelers typically operate.

Tomlin likes to keep things in-house. The last time the Steelers went outside the organization to hire a coordinator was Todd Haley in 2012, as Art Rooney II fired Bruce Arians. Austin had stints with the Lions (2014-2017) and Bengals (2018) as a defensive coordinator. Tomlin added Austin to the staff in 2019. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette confirmed the report that the Steelers have indicated to Austin he would be in line to succeed Butler, but no determination has been made at this point.

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