Could Keith Butler’s blunder cause trouble for him, or his boss?

Getty Images

Of all the various forms and fashions of dysfunction that the Steelers periodically display on the watch of coach Mike Tomlin, none have called into question his basic knowledge of and approach to the game. The gaffe that emerged on Friday regarding defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s stunning misbelief regarding the status of Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert does, indirectly.

In an interview with the team’s website, Keith Butler answered a pair of questions about Eifert, who last played in Week Four. From saying “well, Tyler’s doing a good job” to providing a longer assessment of Eifert’s skills, the man who runs Pittsburgh’s defense and who presumably has been studying film in advance of a showdown with the Bengals on which a playoff berth hinges didn’t realize immediately (or at all) that Eifert landed on injured reserve in early October.

Remember when Rams coach Sean McVay rattled off in a minute or so the strengths of every player on the Bears’ starting defense and how some in the media reacted to the display in hyperbolic fashion and how some in the media then pointed out how hyperbolic it was to praise an offensive-minded head coach for knowing the names of the players on the defense he is preparing to face? Maybe it’s a talent more rare than previously believed.

Or maybe not. Maybe Butler’s blunder exposes him as potentially unfit for the job he holds. And maybe the accountability will move up a level to the man who supervises Butler.

If Butler’s brain fart wasn’t a one-time thing, Mike Tomlin knows or at least should know that Butler either isn’t putting in the work or can’t process the information, unless Tomlin also isn’t putting in the work or processing the information. Indeed, if there’s a flaw so basic and fundamental in Butler’s understanding of the players he’ll be trying to stop on Sunday, how many other flaws exist that aren’t widely known, both as to Butler and as to Tomlin?

The Steelers pride themselves on not firing coaches, and this isn’t a “fire Tomlin” take. It’s a fair, objective look at one of the most surprising cognitive lapses in recent coaching history and the consequences that could flow from it.

Next month, the Steelers celebrate the 50th anniversary of the hiring of Chuck Noll. They’d have only two other coaches since then, with Tomlin wrapping up his twelfth season. If they fail to qualify for the postseason this year, it will be only the fourth time that has happened under Tomlin. Surely, one season of significant underachievement won’t be enough to get Art Rooney II to make a change.

But this Tyler Eifert thing should at a minimum get Rooney, a lawyer by training and trade, to ask some tough, pointed questions behind closed doors, the answers to which at a minimum could cause Rooney to view Butler and/or Tomlin differently as 2019 approaches.

27 responses to “Could Keith Butler’s blunder cause trouble for him, or his boss?

  1. If Rooney needs to start asking tough questions, it should have begun long ago. Last year’s pathetic playoff performance vs the Jags was alarming. As for this blunder, the Bengals have a Tyler Eiffert, a Tyler Kroft and a Tyler Boyd. Boyd has over 1000 yards this year and is a WR, in that instant he could have been thinking of Tyler Boyd based on how the interviewer was forming his question. Bengals only announced today that they would be placing Boyd on IR.

  2. ….this isn’t a “fire Tomlin” take.

    I don’t know. History says when this shark sees blood in the water, he keeps circling till the prey is eaten.

  3. Maybe the guy was speaking of Eifert’s career and talent. And McVay being well versed in the eating habits of the Bears D didn’t help much lol.

  4. Im not a Keith Butler fan first of all. But the interview took place right after the saints loss. Why should Butler be expected to know about a player that is not on his team and a player that he played against in week 6, now is on the IR. We always here coaches saying “We are focused on this week/this opponent. We don’t look ahead.” So therefore Butler shouldn’t know about injuries of any Bengals players that have occored after they last played each other. They haven’t even started their game planning on the next week/team. Now if this interview would have been a day or two after the saints game, than yes, be upset about it.

  5. As a Steelers fan, I love this story. Butler is easily the dullest knife in the drawer and this just helps to publicise it. Dick Lebeau has more smarts at 80+ than this guy does at 60. The NFL is moving to analytics and highly situational football – just like every other sport. The Steelers are way too old school in their coordinators. If this helps the team to realise that – great.

  6. Listen to the back peddling Steelers’ fans making excuses for yet another clueless clown! This team is such a mess right now. The good news for everyone else is that they remain in denial and will never change. Hurry, sign JuJu Smith-Fumble to a long term contract. Make Boswell the head coach and put Bozo the Clown in charge of defense.

  7. kind of like Steven A Smith a few weeks ago. Maybe there is something in the water Kind of makes you wonder what some of these guys really know.

  8. As for this blunder, the Bengals have a Tyler Eiffert, a Tyler Kroft and a Tyler Boyd.
    Why should Butler be expected to know about a player that is not on his team and a player that he played against in week 6, now is on the IR.
    To both of these, all three Tylers are on IR, so regardless of which Tyler he meant, he is still a bonehead. Boyd was the most recent, and although he was not placed on IR until this week, he did not play last week and it was known before then that he was out for the season. And, Eifert never played against the Steelers in week 6. He was injured in the Bengals’ game against the Falcons during week 4 and was placed on IR immediately after that game.

  9. We’re talking about a team that threw Dick Labeau and James Harrison out on their ears so they could assemble an offense that can’t win a single playoff game. Even if it’s against Blake Bortles or Tim Tebow. Hahahaha!

  10. Is the presumption that the Steelers will lose to the Bengals? That butler will spend the week preparing defences against Eifert and not the players on the field?

    Or is it. … “He made a mistake let’s see how it can be amped up into firing decisions, coaching records and legacy, etc.”. Like my teenage daughter and her friends.

    Go Browns

  11. Why are people still surprised when someone in a high profile, highly paid position of responsibility and authority is kind of stupid? Take a look around your workplace. Take a look at Washington. Take a look at the sports talk shows. This planet is crawling with dummies in well-paying, high-stakes jobs.

  12. Steelers dont fire coaches but they sure do not renew contracts. See Tim Lewis as a prime example. I believe Butlers contract is up at the end of the season. I doubt you see it renewed just a hunch.

  13. I love the way the Rooneys run their organization. I’m not sure what Rooney being a lawayer has anything to do with his thought process or his decision. While I agree that Butler mistakenly not knowing tyler was on IR isn’t a good look, there have been far more egregious things that happen when it comes to the league, its owners, players and officials. Players with domestic violence every single year, and two of its stars guilty of DV, still playing, Mixon and Hill. How about we bring up the blunders made by officials week in and week out? Clowney spears Nick foles and its a penalty, Cam Jordan spears Ben Roethlisberger no call. Officals cant seem to agree on any call, and are missing obvious offsides, etc.

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.