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Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler retiring after 19 seasons with team

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For the first time since 2015, Mike Tomlin will need to find a new defensive coordinator.

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler informed the team on Saturday that he is retiring, the team announced.

"It is an emotional day as I announce I am retiring from my football coaching career," Butler said in a statement. "I have spent every year since 1990 as a coach in the NFL and the NCAA, but the time is right for me to walk away after a successful career both playing and coaching the game I love … I look forward to spending more time with my family, whom have been so supportive of me throughout the years. I wish nothing but the best to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I will be cheering them on during my retirement."

The move, coach Mike Tomlin said, was one that Butler had been considering for some time.

“I appreciate everything Keith Butler did for me personally, and our entire team and coaching staff, during the 15 years I spent with him here in Pittsburgh,” coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement. “Keith and I began our friendship in 1996 at the University of Memphis and have remained close to this day. He helped build some of the greatest defenses in the league during our time together in Pittsburgh, and I am appreciative of his dedication and commitment to making our players better on and off the field.”

Butler just wrapped up his 19th season working as an assistant in Pittsburgh, and has spent the last seven as the team’s defensive coordinator. Butler started as a linebackers coach in 2003, following a four-year stint in the same position with the Cleveland Browns.

The 65-year-old got his coaching start as a linebackers coach at Memphis in 1990, where he stayed for eight seasons before moving to Arkansas State for a year.

Though Butler has had plenty of success — he won two Super Bowls as their linebackers coach and helped get them to the playoffs in five of his seven seasons as the defensive coordinator — the Steelers defense struggled this season. They had the worst run defense in the league while allowing 141.6 yards per game.

“Defensively, we didn’t play as well as we’d like,” Tomlin said Tuesday, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We have to get better in that area. You can talk about player availability or lack thereof. You can seek comfort. I don’t. We don’t. All we have is what’s on tape and our record. We need to be better. I’m not comfortable with what we did against the run. I don’t think any of us are. That needs to improve. It will improve. We’ll plot a course to do so.”

Keith Butler first joined the Steelers as an assistant in 2003, and took over as their defensive coordinator in 2015. (Nick Cammett/Getty Images)
Keith Butler first joined the Steelers as an assistant in 2003, and took over as their defensive coordinator in 2015. (Nick Cammett/Getty Images)