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The 2021 season marked many changes for the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. The 2022 season has already promised even more, with three huge retirement announcements in quick succession. First, and most predictably, was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He was quickly followed, however, most recently by general manager Kevin Colbert (sort of), as well as defensive coordinator Keith Butler.

Having served in that role for the past seven years, Butler has been a part of the Steelers organization for two decades, spending most of that time as linebackers coach. He replaced Dick LeBeau in the coordinator role in 2015 and largely kept the same defense, with his own wrinkles.

However, as he confirmed shortly after acknowledging his retirement, it hadn’t been him who was actually setting up the defense most of the time in the game, also revealing that LeBeau hadn’t been doing it in the latter stages of his tenure. too. Head coach Mike Tomlin, himself a defensive coordinator early in his career, had stepped into that role. So what comes next?

The Steelers have already been connected to interview requests with three outside candidates, in Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, Saints defensive backs coach Kris Richard and Cowboys defensive backs coach Joe Whitt. Jr.’s favorite, however, is Teryl Austin, who is his senior. defensive assistant, with experience as a coordinator. But what about calling plays?

I think Coach Tomlin inserts himself where he needs to, and I think the role between him and his coordinators is something that they have to figure out in the best way to get plays called and in the most effective way.Rooney told reporters last week, via Jeff Hathorn of 93.7 The Fan. “I think that’s really something that is mainly between the coach and his coordinators. Now that we’ve changed defensive coordinators, there may be some changes in how Coach Tomlin handles that.”

Of course, what are the odds of Tomlin handing over the reins at this point? Butler said Tomlin convinced him to come back for another season. He certainly isn’t actively looking to relinquish his playcaller role, something he obviously thinks is important.

It’s worth remembering that there are numerous head coaches throughout the league who call their own plays, whether on offense or defense, and all head coaches have at least some paper in doing so. Most of these playcallers are on the offensive side of the ball. Bill Belichick, Brandon Staley, Vic Fangio (recently fired) and Mike Zimmer (recently fired) all retained defensive play-calling responsibilities in 2021, so Tomlin is far from unique. A good quarter to a third of the league’s head coaches call plays on one side or the other of the ball.


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