2021 Offseason Questions: How Will Steelers Divide Coaching Responsibilities In Secondary With New Hire?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: How will Grady Brown and Teryl Austin share responsibilities in coaching the secondary?

Tom Bradley was originally hired to coach the Steelers’ secondary in 2018. It was just a year after that that the team hired Teryl Austin, who has extensive NFL coaching experience, including at the coordinator level, as a ‘senior defensive assistant’ with an emphasis on the secondary.

Once Austin was brought in, however, by and large, it certainly looked and felt as though Austin had taken over the primary responsibilities of instructing the secondary, even if players had at times contradicted that, suggesting that the two evenly split up the work.

And yet two years later, the Steelers chose not to renew Bradley’s contract as the secondary coach. And yet, they didn’t formally name Austin the secondary coach, either. Instead, they brought in another coach, Grady Brown, who’s coaching experience, like Bradley’s had largely been at the college level.

So how will Brown and Austin work together with the secondary? Frankly, we lost a lot of valuable information about how this works last season because of the pandemic reshaping how the offseason works, so it’s quite possible we’ll never quite know as much as we once knew about such topics—which was already limited.

Brown is the fifth new coach brought in altogether, which includes two new names who had to replace others who were promoted into other roles. Amongst the entire coaching staff, only Keith Butler, Danny Smith, and Jerry Olsavsky have been under Mike Tomlin for more than three years. That’s quite out of the ordinary for the Steelers.

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