2022 Offseason Questions: How Much Would Effectively Change With Teryl Austin As DC?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.

This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others.

Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor is heading into free agency, as is Trai Turner.

These are the sorts of topics 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. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: How much would effectively change if Teryl Austin is promoted to defensive coordinator to replace Keith Butler?

With former defensive coordinator Keith Butler recently announcing his retirement—and also recently confirming that he indeed never enjoyed the bulk of the play-calling responsibilities during games—it begs the question about what would really be all that different in Pittsburgh if indeed head coach Mike Tomlin just decides to promote from within.

The Steelers are far from the only team that routinely promotes within their coaching staff to replace lost coaches—the Baltimore Ravens are just one of the more notable teams who do this fairly regularly—but generally, they still bring their own stamp to the proceedings.

Teryl Austin has years of coordinating experience at the NFL level, which is no doubt one of the things Tomlin was drawn to, but he surely knows that if he is given the promotion—and accepts it—that he will have a minimal role in the actual snap-to-snap play-calling responsibilities.

Still, there is a whole lot more to being a coordinator than calling plays. Obviously, there’s the literal on-field coaching aspect. There’s the play designs, the schemes, the matchup decisions. One does wonder how deeply invested Tomlin is in each of these elements, as well.

Is it a given that if Austin is promoted, he will essentially be running Tomlin’s defense, and not a hybrid Austin-Tomlin defense? Butler did seem to have his own ideas and all that. Obviously, Austin will have to bring something to the table, as he will be expected to be more than just a title. He’s already been an important member of the staff for the past three seasons as a senior defensive assistant.

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