Considering that his official title is that of defensive backs coach, it is rather interesting how little we have heard from or even of Tom Bradley over the course of the past year. Since then, of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers brought in Teryl Austin as a ‘Senior Defensive Assistant’ to work largely with the secondary, and many have described him as essentially the defensive backs coach himself.
Earlier this month, however, rookie safety Antoine Brooks talked about how both of them are spending a lot of time with him and working with him. Perhaps he singled how Bradley even more, and went so far as to suggest that he’s an ideal coach for himself.
“He’s most definitely one of the most perfect coaches for me to be around”, he told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review earlier this offseason, “because he’s very energetic. My type of coach, very into a man and a person playing football and playing a sport. He’s very into men, trying to help me grow up and get them better and trying to focus on that, to get better (on the field)”.
That does seem to be a common characteristic among the coaches that Mike Tomlin opts to hire, guys who not only invest heavily in what a player can do on the field but also in who he is as a person, because he holds the belief that these two things are connected.
Bradley was a long-time assistant coach in a variety of roles with Penn State. Tomlin gave him his first job in the NFL when he hired him in 2018 to replace Carnell Lake, who chose to resign his position with the desire to be closer to his family.
The secondary didn’t perform the way the Steelers were looking for that year, especially with the failure of former first-round pick Artie Burns, who had to be benched in favor of Coty Sensabaugh by the opposite side of the bye week.
It probably wasn’t by coincidence that Austin was brought in a year later, and that his specialty in instruction was to work with the defensive backs. And he did help turn the secondary into one of the best in the league—but that was also boosted greatly be the acquisitions of Steven Nelson and Minkah Fitzpatrick, so he doesn’t get credit for that.
Given how essential and significant the role of the secondary has become in today’s game, it’s entirely understandable that the Steelers have finally adopted a practice that many other teams already began years ago, which is having multiple instructors for the job.