It’s really too early to tell, but I can’t help but get the impression that new Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin has the potential to be one of the more significant additions to the coaching staff that Head Coach Mike Tomlin has made in recent years.
Brought in to work with the secondary, from a coaching standpoint, he has been jointly running the defensive back room with Tom Bradley, who was first hired for the 2018 season after spending all of his previous coaching tenure in the college ranks, the bulk of that at Penn State.
Some have gotten the impression, however, that it has been more Austin running the ship with Bradley as his first mate. Perhaps that is the case in effect, or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Austin is bringing in new elements that need to be worked on.
Starting free safety Sean Davis, who only recently returned to practice as he recovers from a finger injury (and who confirmed that he won’t play tonight), talked a bit about the fact that Austin presences adds a little something that they haven’t had before in his tenure.
“Just something different, just a different package”, is what Davis said that Austin has brought, via recent interview with The Fan. “We’ve done things, I’m not going to say same way, but definitely, Coach TA brings something different to us that we can utilize for the better or for the worse. But we definitely are gonna implement the stuff that he brings to the table, and we’ll keep the stuff that works. And if not, we have other stuff in our back pocket to use. But just him being out there and bringing something different to the table, I think, has made us better”.
Of course, much of Davis’ analysis of Austin’s input, at least since training camp, has been as a spectator rather than as a contributor thanks to that finger injury that he suffered fairly on in training camp. In his absence has stepped up the likes of Kameron Kelly and P.J. Locke, a pair of young safeties hungry to push for a roster spot.
One of the things that Austin has made a special focus is an emphasis on intercepting the ball. He has even taken to not praising pass deflections, rather pointing out that the ball is on the ground rather than in a defender’s arms, going the other way. He has made it mandatory for his players to take 15 to 20 reps on the Jugs machine every day at practice.
This is the first year that the Steelers have made use of two sets of eyes in the secondary on the coaching staff, Tomlin creating the new position for Austin. It’s reflective of the reality of today’s NFL, wherein it’s common to see five, six, or even seven defensive backs on the field at the same time. He has previously talked about how Bradley and himself work together to manage the division of labor.