Updated: Feb 7
(Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
As expected, the Steelers are promoting senior defensive assistant and secondary coach Teryl Austin to defensive coordinator. The move was in the cards before Keith Butler even announced his retirement following the 2021 season. Butler was going to retire last season, but Tomlin convinced him to come back for one more season. Butler also wanted to make one last run at a Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the Steelers are finalizing a deal with Austin to become their new defensive coordinator. They are working out the details today, and the move is expected to get done.
It was reported on Saturday by Adam Schefter of ESPN that the Giants wanted to interview Austin for their defensive coordinator position, so it looks like the Steelers are trying to get something done fast with Austin.
Austin has prior experience as a defensive coordinator, as he was the defensive play-caller for the Lions (2014-2017) and Bengals (2018). Austin really didn't have much to work with in Cincinnati and was fired in the middle of the season. Austin did some good things with the Lions, but was let go after Jim Caldwell was fired following the 2017 season. Austin has been on Tomlin's staff since 2019.
Austin has a ton of experience and is highly regarded as a secondary coach, so it seems logical to promote Austin, especially given how the Steelers run their business. Austin being the defensive coordinator might not even matter that much, however, as according to Butler, Tomlin calls the plays anyway.
"TA, he's a great coach," Minkah Fitzpatrick said in January. "I'm not going to talk too good about him because I want him to stay in Pittsburgh. I know everybody else is trying to get at him. He's a great coach. I love his attention to detail, the way that he approaches the game, the way he lets the players have a voice. A lot of coaches don't really let players have a voice. I'm appreciative of that."
The topic of whether Tomlin or Butler was the defensive play-caller has been discussed for the last couple of years, and Butler made it clear that Tomlin was calling the shots.
“I would have liked to do them myself, sure I would,” Butler said on 93.7 The Fan about calling the defensive plays. “I think everybody would. But Mike’s the head coach. He can do what he wants to do.”
Butler also revealed that Tomlin was calling the plays before he was even named defensive coordinator.
"The last couple of years with Dick LeBeau, Mike was calling the plays too," Butler said.
Austin has years of experience as a secondary coach and even a few years as a play-caller, so it should be interesting to see if Tomlin hands play-calling duties over to Austin or if things will remain the same and Tomlin will call the shots on defense.