2022 Offseason Questions: How Will Defense Look Different 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 will the defense look different with Teryl Austin as defensive coordinator rather than Keith Butler?

Although Butler confirmed post-retirement that head coach Mike Tomlin had, indeed, been calling the lion’s share of the defensive plays (and had been for the past decade or so), defensive coordinators still have a lot of responsibilities beyond simply deciding when to call what play in-game.

Nearly every team has an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator, even if in many cases the head coach calls the plays for one side of the ball or the other, and those coordinators do have jobs to do. Austin being in the defensive coordinator role rather than Butler result in some type of change.

But what, exactly, and how will we see it on the field? Surely, the desire for continuity played a significant role in Tomlin’s decision to promote Austin rather than look to hire one of the numerous outside candidates that they interviewed, but Austin is not Butler.

Austin has been with the team since 2019, having served as a senior defensive assistant with an emphasis on the secondary. Many have viewed him as the de facto defensive backs coach since then, though they’ve had other coaches in that role—currently Grady Brown.

Another thing to consider is the hiring of Brian Flores, who acted as defensive play-caller while he was head coach of the Miami Dolphins. He now owns the title of senior defensive assistant. The additions of Austin and Flores introduce a lot of change into the top formulators of this defense, even if Tomlin remains the dominant leader.