Teryl Austin Expects ‘Tweaks,’ Not Wholesale Changes To Steelers’ Defensive Philosophy

On Sundays, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense needs to look a lot different than a year ago. But Monday through Saturday, Teryl Austin plans on keeping things largely the same. Austin sat down with’s Missi Matthews Tuesday and said he doesn’t expect the team to make big changes in how they go about things.

“All we’re gonna be doing is asking our guys to play to the standard that’s been set,” he said via the team’s YouTube channel. “We feel we left a lot out there last year and we know we have to improve and we will improve. And so I think that’s really what our mindset is.”

Pittsburgh’s run defense bottomed out a year ago, not only finishing dead last in the league in yards per carry at 5.0, but its worst mark in franchise history. The losses of Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu combined with the need to play young, inexperienced players like Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux, and Isaiahh Loudermilk along with poor off-ball linebacker performances and inconsistent secondary tackling caused Pittsburgh to allow a league-high 24 runs of 20+ yards, an uncharacteristically high number for this organization.

While the play has to change, the way Austin plans to attack things will not.

“In terms of changes, there’s gonna be maybe some little tweaks in terms of how we do practice, how we do some walkthroughs and some structural things. But I think overall, the bottom line with defense is you gotta whoop a block, you gotta get off, you gotta make a tackle, you gotta turn the ball over. And those are core principles of defense, no matter where you go and we have to be better at that.”

With Mike Tomlin still the head coach and running the show defensively, it’s hard to expect any serious or significant changes. Austin and other defensive coaches still serve their purpose and are the building blocks of each week’s gameplan but the change in DC from Keith Butler to Austin isn’t as significant as the team going from, say, Randy Fichtner to Matt Canada.

Austin is right about the core principles of playing defense, regardless of scheme or philosophy. Get off the block, find the ball, make the tackle, and take the football away. Pittsburgh didn’t do any of those things well enough last year. While the horrid run defense woes deservedly garner all the attention, the Steelers didn’t create enough turnovers last season. Just 13 interceptions a year ago and that number was buoyed by a late-season surge, picking off four passes over the team’s final two games. Taking the football away will be a critical component to the team’s 2022 success, helping out an underwhelming offense while keeping the score down.

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