Nick Eason carved out a nice career for himself at the back end of his journey as a player working as a rotational defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Playing in Pittsburgh from 2007 through the 2010 season, he helped the team reach a pair of Super Bowls, winning one of them, in a reserve role.
11 of his 21 career starts over a 10-year span came during his four-year stint with the Steelers, where he made his greatest impact, finishing with 128 total tackles, seven sacks, a forced fumble, and four passes defensed. But most of all he was praised by his teammates and coaches for his intelligence.
Which is why it should be no surprise that he got into coaching the year after he retired. He worked as an assistant defensive line coach under Dick LeBeau protégé Ray Horton with the Cleveland Browns in 2013 before working directly under LeBeau with the Tennessee Titans from 2014 through the 2017 season. After spending some time working at the college level, he is back in the AFC North.
Where he will be one again training defensive linemen to go up against the Steelers’ offensive line, this time with the Cincinnati Bengals. This is his first NFL job without an obvious connection to his time with the Steelers, working under a former member of Pittsburgh’s coaching staff.
While there, he will get to work with the likes of Pro Bowlers Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, who seem to have already taken to him. The former told the team’s website about his new position coach, “when he talks to us, he’s talking about the best way to do it because he’s done it. On the chalkboard everything looks good and should work within the rules, but pieces move in a real game and he understands that”.
But Atkins and Dunlap are very accomplished players, particularly as pass rushers. Atkins has 71 in his nine-year career and is a two-time first-team All-Pro as a defensive tackle, while Dunlap has accumulated 72 and a half sacks in the same time span, with a career-high 13 and a half in 2015.
“Resume and reputation mean nothing to me”, Eason said regarding his introduction to his new students. “Those guys are great people and they’re already great players. But there’s always room for improvement. And they’ve been great. The one thing Geno and Carlos want to do is win”.
One thing that he did expect from those two, however, was for them to be leaders. “Whether verbal or not, you’re still the leader and guys look up to you and follow what you do”, Dunlap says of the message Eason relayed to them.
The Bengals have a lot of young players along their defensive line, including Andrew Billings, Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, and Sam Hubbard, as well as rookie Renell Wren. To have Dunlap and Atkins help show them the ropes is what Eason is after for his new room.