It seems that it’s a good time right now to be a retired former Pittsburgh Steelers player, because coaches around the league have displayed ample willingness to give them employment as a head coach. Especially former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians now that he is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as I have previously written about, hiring Byron Leftwich, Larry Foote, and Antwaan Randle El as members of his coaching staff.
Another former Steeler just found another job with the Chicago Bears, that being cornerback Deshea Townsend, who played in Pittsburgh for a dozen years from 1998 to 2009. He finished up his career with one season on the Indianapolis Colts’ roster before retiring in his mid-30s, but he immediately jumped into coaching.
From 2011 to 2012, Townsend was employed by the Arizona Cardinals—before Arians got there, mind you—as an assistant defensive backs coach. He returned to his home state to work with the cornerbacks at Mississippi before re-emerging under Dick LeBeau’s defense in 2016 and 2017 at the NFL level with the Tennessee Titans as their defensive backs coach.
He was an assistant defensive backs coach for the New York Giants last season, but is now being hired as the defensive backs coach proper for the Bears, where he will work with such talents as Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller.
Townsend is one of just a number of former Steelers defensive backs who have pursued a successful career as a coach, including seemingly the entire secondary of the early 1990s, with Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, and Darren Perry.
More recent players such as Ike Taylor and William Gay have expressed an interest in coaching as well. Taylor has served as an intern with the Steelers before since his retirement. As for Gay, his nickname among his teammates was literally ‘Coach’, so I would be surprised if he doesn’t eventually take a job with a team.
Gay was released by the Steelers in 2018 following 10 of 11 seasons playing for the organization. He signed with the Giants under Townsend last year, but he was released before the regular season began, failing to make the final cut, and he did not sign with another team.
Will he try to continue to play in 2019? If not, will he look for work as a coach? If he should take the latter route, he certainly has plenty of ears he can bend about how to make the transformation from former Steelers defensive back to coach. He even worked with Townsend during his one season with the Cardinals in 2012.