Keith Butler on Steelers defensive scheme: Whatever it takes to win

Getty Images

The Steelers won’t have longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on the sideline for the 2015 season, but they didn’t stray too far to find his replacement.

Keith Butler has been on the Steelers staff since 2003, a year before LeBeau returned to the team after spending time in Cincinnati and Buffalo, so he’s well versed in the Steelers’ defensive philosophies. During a chat with the Steelers website after being named the team’s new defensive coordinator, though, Butler resisted tying himself into the familiar 3-4 base scheme that was LeBeau’s bread and butter in Pittsburgh.

“I would consider myself a whatever-it-takes-to-win guy. If it’s a 3-4, that’s fine, if that fits your players. I think you have to be able to fit your defense around the players you have,” Butler said. “With what offenses are doing nowadays in the National Football League, they’re playing a lot of three wide receivers and a tight end and a running back, for the most part. In those situations, we’re going to be in kind of a 4-3 anyway, but we’re still going to be able to run the 3-4 also. It gives you a little bit more versatility, I think.”

The current group of Steelers players were acquired to play for LeBeau, which makes it hard to believe they’ll stray too far in another direction right off the bat. With needs to boost the pass rush and the secondary, it might not be too long before the roster and the look of the defense take on more of Butler’s imprint.

28 responses to “Keith Butler on Steelers defensive scheme: Whatever it takes to win

  1. With added flexibility, the Steelers can draft best defensive player available — rather than best defensive player that is limited to a particular scheme.

    This 2015 rookie crop appears to be deep at edge, short on ILB/MLB — which is a good thing for Steeler Nation, given our depth at ILB/MLB and dearth of talent on the outside. This would lend itself to us staying with the 3-4 (for the short term anyway) — given the presence of Timmons, Vince, Shazier and even Spence.

  2. I like hearing this! These days offenses go with 3 wrs, or 3 tes, with a single back, or sometimes no backs – anything to be unpredictable. It’s almost rare when an offense lines up in a olf-fashioned 21 formation including a fullback. The formation most defenses use by neccessity is a nickle anyways. So you’ve got to be versatile in your approach on defense, or offenses with find the mismatches and burn you down. Hopefully this translates to an improved defense next year.


  3. Reading between the lines a bit here, I think that a shift to more of a 4-3 base defense is coming…

  4. Well let’s see.. Your QB is old and beat up. Certainly I his way out. All your old stars like Polamalu, Harrison, kiesel are mulling retirement and you have an injury prone running back that your team apparently can’t win without. (Not even at home against your bitter rival who had 19 guys on IR) I’d say first, it’s going to take a lot to win and second, this is the beginning of a new era for the steelers. Similar to the one when they went 30 + years without winning a championship.

    But hey, 6 rings right?! (As rusty as they may be)

  5. A ” whatever it takes to win guy ” I’m interpreting that as him saying I’m gonna blow this defense up and start over.

  6. Again with the 4-3 nonsense. And the personnel on the roster who can play 4-3 right now are who? We’re having trouble just playing the 3-4 well.

  7. “But hey, 6 rings right?! (As rusty as they may be)”

    No, but the 2014 afcn crown instead of 3rd is a good start.

    thank goodness for Hoyer and Manziel

  8. I’m sure the Steelers will still technically use the 3-4 as their base defense; it’s just that in these days of offensive personnel specialization and multiple formations, defenses have to be more versatile than in the past. You can’t just stand pat and predictable, yet expect to still be effective. I want a defense that can match up schematically with whatever an offense throws against them, and be capable of exploiting whatever weak spots in that offense they find.

    Use a 3-4, a 4-3, 5-2, a 4-2 nickle, or a 3-3 nickle, or a big nickle with 3 safeties, or a small nickle with 3 corners. Anything and everything, whatever it takes, whatever is going to work. I don’t give a crap what, just get the job done.

    Go Steelers!

  9. Whichever direction the steelers decide to go I would definitely make my first two defensive players. Grab a cb and a olb or dl. Whatever it takes to win means grabbing some more defensive talent.

  10. “What it takes” is getting rid of expensive, over the hill, fan favorites. You can’t rebuild using crumbling old bricks.

  11. Good to see paulieorkid again! And good to hear Butler talking about versatility. LeBeau is a defensive genius, but sometimes he was reluctant to mix things up–which is why it took the Steelers so long to neutralize Brady. Looking forward to seeing how Butler adapts to different situations.

    As an aside, it’s hilarious to see Ravens fans posting about PEDs when it’s their players getting suspended for PEDs use, not ours.

  12. I forgot 08 – 15 times played for the Conference! That’s 15 times we have been one game away from SB.

    That is a little less than a 1/3 of the time the SB has been played.

    Knock the Steelers, you knock consistency.

  13. Now all the Steelers need is a new GM to actually find some talent.

    Doubly frustrating when Shazier and Tuitt were picked over guys like Mosely and Jernigan that had major impacts for the Ravens this year.

  14. Shazier and Tuitt would have been superstars in that awful Ravens D. Standards are higher here.

  15. Sorry Keith, they now test for PEDs.

    Steelers can’t do whatever it takes any more.


    I’m sorry, did you know that the Steelers have *literally never* had a steroid scandal?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.