Updated: Jan 24, 2022
(Photo by Stephen Mauren/Getty Images)
Keith Butler announced his retirement on Saturday, and shortly after he 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 whether Tomlin or Butler was the defensive play-caller has been discussed for the last couple of years, and Butler made it clear that Tomlin was calling the shots.
“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.”
Butler added more to the story when he was on 93.7 The Fan on Monday.
"The last couple of years with Dick LeBeau, Mike was calling the plays too," Butler said.
Even though Butler would have liked to been the play-caller, he understands why Tomlin chose to call the plays instead. Butler also said he could've went to another team where he would have more of a say, but he stayed with the Steelers out of loyalty.
Butler believes that Teryl Austin will likely be the next defensive coordinator for the Steelers.
According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers have indicated to Austin that he would be in line to succeed Butler, but not determination has been made at this point. Austin has been on Tomlin's staff since 2019 and has prior experience as a defensive coordinator with the Lions (2014-2017) and Bengals (2018)
The Steelers also requested to interview Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for the vacant defensive coordinator position, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network. Graham is still under contract with the Giants, even though Joe Judge was fired. Graham spent the past two years as the Giants' defensive coordinator. He was the Dolphins defensive coordinator in 2019. It's still likely that Austin will be promoted, however, as that's how Tomlin typically operates.
This whole story of Butler not calling plays ever during his tenure is really odd. Tomlin always said it was a collaborative effort when it came to calling plays with Butler. So, it's kind of weird that Tomlin wouldn't admit that he was the play-caller. Could there be some bad blood between Butler and Tomlin? Possibly. I can't imagine Tomlin being very happy with Butler revealing information like this publicly.