Gene J. Puskar
January 13, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't search far for Dick LeBeau's replacement.

The team promoted longtime linebackers coach Keith Butler to defensive coordinator on Tuesday, giving him a three-year contract and tasking him with restoring some of the snarl to a defense in the midst of a generational shift.

''Keith has been an integral part of our defensive game planning and schemes for several years and we look forward to him moving into the role of calling the defense,'' coach Mike Tomlin said. ''His passion and energy will be important to us taking the next steps to being one of the top defenses in the NFL.''

It's a spot that has long belonged to the Steelers, though the unit has fallen off the last two years as it shifts from from aging stars like Brett Keisel and Troy Polamalu to a young core centered around defensive end Cam Heyward and linebackers Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones.

Pittsburgh finished 14th in yards allowed in 2013 and 18th this season even as the team won its last four games to go 11-5 and win the AFC North for the first time since 2010. The decline weighed heavily on LeBeau, a Hall of Famer who spent two stints with the Steelers building defenses that regularly led the club to the postseason. Pittsburgh finished in the top five in total defense 11 times in his 13 seasons as defensive coordinator from 1994-95 and 2005-14 and won two Super Bowls.

The 77-year-old remains interested in coaching but stepped down on Saturday. Pittsburgh wasted little time elevating Butler, long considered to be LeBeau's heir apparent.

The 58-year-old Butler played 10 seasons at linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks from 1978-87 and has spent the last 12 years the Steelers. Pittsburgh linebackers have made 10 Pro Bowls, been named AP-All Pro first or second-team seven times and been selected as Steelers' MVP three times during Butler's tenure.

''It's the dream of a lifetime,'' said Butler. ''There are only 32 of these jobs on this earth. I am excited about the opportunity and I look forward to getting this process started immediately.''

The Steelers will likely look in house for Butler's replacement, with assistants Jerry Olsavsky and Joey Porter the most likely candidates.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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