It’s not often that the Pittsburgh Steelers choose to add a new coaching position to their staff, but that is what they did recently with the hiring of Teryl Austin, who is officially being given the title of ‘senior defensive assistant’ with an emphasis on the secondary.
Austin, 53, has spent the bulk of his career working with defensive backs—he was a defensive back himself for Pitt—and even worked with defensive backs coach Tom Bradley while he was a graduate assistant at Penn State in the early 1990s. Bradley was the outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at that time.
But what does his inclusion into the fold mean? Does it mean anything? I think that is what many are wondering. While the hiring makes sense in and of itself—a veteran coach with local ties added to an area of the team that is expanding in prevalence—there could be more to it.
Austin has been a ‘coach on the rise’ for some time, first landing a coordinator position following a successful stint as the secondary coach for the Baltimore Ravens. He was the Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator from 2014 to 2014, and then was brought in by the Cincinnati Bengals last year in the same capacity—only to be fired midseason.
But his name has been out there as a potential future head coaching candidate. When the Bengals first signed him, some thought that he might be a possibility to succeed Marvin Lewis in a year or two as head coach, but that obviously didn’t work out.
Now that he’s in Pittsburgh, a place with a defensive coordinator under heavy scrutiny, is it possible that they view him as somebody who could be their next coordinator in waiting? Keith Butler is likely on thin ice at best. If Austin impresses, it wouldn’t be surprising if he has the opportunity in the future to move up in the organization.
Of course, that’s all a discussion for another day. His current task is to help build up the secondary along with Bradley, the Steelers hoping that two coaches dedicated to the assignment will better serve their needs.
As I’ve previously written, the plan is believed for the two coaches to divide responsibilities between the cornerbacks and safeties. It’s unclear how this will work when it comes to working with sub-packages, as both cornerbacks and safeties can be used in different situations.
The top task in the back end is finding a full-time starting cornerback on the right side. The rest the team can work with, though they may also try to upgrade the dimeback position. With Austin in the building, he will have the entire offseason to help go over the plan, both from a schematic and personnel standpoint.