Steelers defensive backs raving about Teryl Austin’s impact on secondary
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin believes it’s “much too early” to judge Teryl Austin’s impact secondary coach, given that they have yet to play a regular-season game.
“We’re just getting started,” Tomlin said. “We haven’t been in enough battles to make those types of judgments on any one particular add. We’re all growing and working and learning along the way and making mistakes and finding the necessary cohesion and interactions, in terms of roles.”
Austin is receiving rave reviews from Steelers’ defensive backs, from two-time Pro Bowl pick Joe Haden to third-year cornerback Cameron Sutton, for everything from his coaching acumen to his communication skills with corners and safeties.
“It’s been great having him back there, just given the knowledge that he has,” Haden said. “He’s been in the league a long time. Just the way that he studies the film and presents the film to us, the install, going over it with the younger guys, it’s very, very clear. There’s no gray area. When we watch the tape, we’re able to go over it very sharp because he gave it to us very sharp.
“I love his demeanor. He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. He’s very, very mellow. Even when coaching us up, he’s going to give us great coaching points. He’s never going to be too much of a yeller or a screamer. He just wants us to be very meticulous on our details. Having him up there and being able to see it and relay stuff down to us is going to do nothing but help.”
Austin is spearheading the Steelers’ emphasis on creating turnovers, especially interceptions. The secondary accounted for six of the Steelers’ eight picks last season, which ranked 28th out of 32 NFL teams. So, the defensive backs focus by taking daily reps of catching balls from the JUGS machine.
“They get it. They understand that when the ball is in the air, we’ve got to try to get it. When it’s on the ground, we’re trying to strip it out,” Austin said. “It’s important because we’re trying to get the ball back for the offense as much as we can. … That was one of the areas we lacked. If we give our offense more opportunities, we’ll have a better chance to win.”
The addition of Austin as a senior defensive assistant to Tom “Scrap” Bradley is an investment in the secondary, as Austin estimates the Steelers employ five defensive backs on the field 75 percent of the time and have sets with six. Austin joked he love to have a third coach with the secondary, and his outgoing personality has rubbed the Steelers the right way.
“He’s a really personable coach,” Sutton said. “He came in and established the foundation with the group. It’s something everyone gravitates to – just head over heels for him. That’s not hard, to like that guy.”
Austin hopes the Steelers not only like him but buy into his 16 years of NFL experience. He coached the secondary as the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals made Super Bowl runs — both lost to the Steelers — and the Baltimore Ravens when they won Super Bowl XLVII and spent four seasons as defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions.
“I think it’s only valuable if they believe in what I’m telling them,” Austin said. “Right now, I feel pretty confident in how the guys are responding to what we’re teaching, between me and Scrap, and so I feel good about that. I think they value that experience because they know that I’ve been through it and they know that I’m going to try to give them the best that I can to help them.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .