Defensive Continuity Key Reason Why Mike Tomlin Promoted Teryl Austin To DC

Mike Tomlin interviewed outside candidates for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ next defensive coordinator following Keith Butler’s retirement. But he circled back on the job’s frontrunner from the start and promoted defensive assistant Teryl Austin to that position earlier this offseason. Speaking with’s Missi Matthews over the weekend, Tomlin explained why he landed on Austin.

“It’s just really comfortable and natural,” Tomlin told Matthews via the team’s YouTube channel. “He’s been here with us. Obviously, he’s a very capable coach. He understands our philosophical approach to defense. Certainly his perspective and spin will be felt. He’ll have the latitude to make some changes and put his imprint on it. But it was just such a natural thing because he’s been a part of us and the relationship that he and I have go back so many years. I’m just really comfortable with him in that area.”

Pittsburgh hired Austin in 2019 under the tittle of senior assistant/secondary coach. Functionally, he became the de facto secondary coach over Tom Bradley, running practice drills and having a positive impact on the secondary, especially in terms of increasing their takeaways (trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick also didn’t hurt). On gamedays, Austin sat in the booth as the eye in the sky, assisting Tomlin with in-game decision-making. Now, he’ll return to DC for the first time since 2018 when he was fired midway through the year after the Bengals’ defense struggled mightily.

Tomlin said he considered input from veterans leaders like Fitzpatrick and Cam Heyward.

“Certainly it did,” he said when asked if their campaigning was something he considered. “I respect the opinions of those. But I don’t think anybody that’s been apart of us would be against that suggestion because they know what he brings in terms of his talents and his willingness to work. And so really, it was kind of an easy process.”

An easy process but still a thorough one. Pittsburgh reportedly interviewed names like Kris Richard, Patrick Graham, and Joe Whitt for the job. A similar process to the one the team went through a year ago, talking to several potential o-line coach hires before promoting Adrian Klemm. Hopefully the Austin hire produces better results.

Tomlin spoke to the value of talking to those outside the Steelers’ building.

“That was good for me, to be quite honest with you. I was open to it. You get some perspective. You see how people do things differently. But at the end of the day, I think that continuity component and the intimacies of our relationships made it an easy decision.”

All last season, the Steelers struggled to find stable ground. They lost, not retained or added during free agency, pushed up against the cap crunch as much as any team. Vince Williams retired on the eve of training camp, Stephon Tuitt never played, Tyson Alualu was limited to five quarters, and the defense was full of new and inexperienced faces who played like…new and inexperienced people. While the 2022 will be unpredictable and have its challenges, the team currently sits on better footing.

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