For the first time in nearly a decade, Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau won't be on Pittsburgh's sidelines calling their plays in his creative zone-blitz defense. LeBeau and the Steelers parted after the 2014 season, forcing Pittsburgh into a next-man-up approach by naming linebackers coach Keith Butler as the team's next defensive coordinator.
Needless to say, Butler has impressive shoes to fill. He feels ready for the challenge:
"He’s been waiting a long time for this opportunity and he’s done it with a lot of class," said former linebacker Greg Gaines. "He’s going to be a head coach in this league, you mark my words. One of the reasons the guys like him is he’s tough. Linebackers can pick up on that. They know when a guy is a fake and when a guy is real, and Keith is real. He’s the kind of guy if he says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it."
Butler is looking to terrorize quarterbacks in much the same way that LeBeau did for so many years in Pittsburgh.
One signal-caller he may not have to worry about in the division is Brian Hoyer, who is entering free agency as a free agent. Most reasonably thought that he would leave for another opportunity after Johnny Manziel was named the starter. Manziel's disastrous showing last year obviously put those plans in doubt, and Hoyer is now open to re-signing with Cleveland if he has a reasonable shot at earning the starting job.
His agent Joe Linta said that he's heard interest from the Browns in a return and indicated his client has no hard feelings about how things played out in 2014.
"I think the only thing that would make him not [want to] come back is if they said Manziel or whoever we take in the draft or whoever we sign in free agency is going to be the starter and you will only be the backup," Linta said. "I think that would probably drive him away a little bit. If [coach Mike] Pettine said, ‘Hey, it's going to be an open competition again between you and Johnny,' great, let's go. ... [Hoyer] wants to play. The kid wants to have an opportunity to compete and play."
After a nice start, Hoyer flamed out down the stretch, forcing Cleveland to make a change.