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Pro Football Focus ranks Keith Butler as the third-best defensive play-caller in the NFL


(Photo by Diamond Images via Getty Images)


Eric Eager of Pro Football Focus recently named the top six defensive play-callers in the league heading into the 2021 season, and Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler came in at No. 3 on his list just behind Don Martindale of the Ravens and Brandon Staley of the Chargers.


"The Steelers tied for second in the NFL in yards per play allowed while generating pressure and knocking down the quarterback both at a rate roughly four percentage points higher than any other defense in 2020," Eric Eager wrote of Butler on why he has him ranked as the third-best defensive play-caller in the NFL. "This was despite the fact that Bud Dupree and Devin Bush were injured for much of the season.


"The Steelers were the NFL’s best team in terms of limiting positive expected points added plays, and they stayed among the league’s top units despite a turnover rate that decreased by roughly one-third from their absurd 2019 season to 2020."


While some Steelers fans might be surprised to see Butler this high in PFF's defensive play-caller rankings, he has had the defense play at a high level the last two seasons when it comes to getting pressure and forcing turnovers. However, he's had some questionable game plans at times, especially in the wild-card playoff game loss to the Browns last season.


It's also unclear how much control Butler has when it comes to play-calling, as Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Mike Tomlin called all the defensive signals against the Browns in the wild-card game. In the past, Tomlin and Butler would often split the play-calling. Tomlin has also been reportedly calling the defensive signals for the last few seasons, according to Dulac.


I think Todd Bowels of the Buccaneers and Leslie Frazier of the Bills should have been ranked ahead of Butler in PFF's rankings, and I could see an argument being made that Butler doesn't even belong as a top-six defensive play-caller in the league. I do believe he's in the top 10, however.