Will Steelers defense look any different under new DC Teryl Austin?

Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers have hired their new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin, but is Pittsburgh’s defense expected to undergo changes in 2022?

After a disappointing end to the 2021 season, Pittsburgh Steelers fans were hoping for some big changes in the new year. Mike Tomlin’s staff underwhelmed this past season as their team took a significant step back on both sides of the ball.

Much of this has to do with an obvious talent deficiency. Over the past year, the Steelers lost players like Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Alejandro Villanueva, and Matt Feiler. While none of these losses, individually, was considered a significant blow to the team, the collection of their departures had a big impact on the results in 2021.

Despite lacking elite talent in several major positional groups and quality depth across the board, the coaching staff does deserve their share of the blame for the final results this past season. Pittsburgh’s offense was remarkably bland with almost no big-play upside, while their defense plummeted to the worst run-defending unit in the NFL (an area where they are typically very good).

Whether by choice or causation, defensive coordinator, Keith Butler, walked away from the team this offseason, and it was presumed that his job would be filled by an internal hire in defensive assistant/defensive back coach, Teryl Austin.

Though it was weeks before this was made official, this was indeed the route the Steelers decided to go. But should we expect changes with a new defensive coordinator hire in 2022?

Steelers fans shouldn’t expect drastic changes on defense

The simple answer is no. While Butler has been at the forefront of criticism when things would go wrong for the Steelers defensively over the past few years, the former defensive coordinator confessed his frustration with not being able to call plays on defense.

That job, of course, belonged to head coach Mike Tomlin. This isn’t unusual among head coaches in the NFL, and there are many who are responsible for play-calling — typically on the offensive side of the ball.

Teryl Austin has had a lengthy career as a football coach that dates all the way back to his time as an assistant with Penn State in 1991. After twelve years at the collegiate level (mostly as a defensive backs coach), Austin made the jump to the NFL where he continued in his area of expertise as a defensive backs coach.

Austin, however, is most famous for his five-year stint as an NFL defensive coordinator (four with the Lions and one with the Bengals). Because of this, taking over the DC job in Pittsburgh is nothing new to him.

Unfortunately, this really isn’t going to be Austin’s defense to run; rather Mike Tomlin’s. The Steelers head coach is expected to resume his play-calling duties. While Austin may bring a bit of an edge to a defense that may have been lacking in this department last year, we should more or less expect what we saw from this group in 2021.

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I’m not opposed to Mike Tomlin running the defense, as this group has had success in the past, but there are some things I do believe need to change. Because of the way his defenses are built, they may always struggle to slow down good quarterbacks. Regardless, we shouldn’t expect much of anything to change now that the Steelers have named Teryl Austin as their new defensive coordinator.