Though no Pittsburgh Steelers assistant will be an NFL head coach in 2024, it’s possible one moves to the college ranks. After Syracuse fired Dino Babers, college reporter Pete Thamel included Steelers DC Teryl Austin on a short list of possible replacement head coaches.
It’s not clear exactly how Thamel came up with the list, one that obviously includes a ton of names on it. It might be more of a specu-tweet of names, doing basic dot-connecting between top college coaches and a smattering of NFL names.
Presumably, Austin’s name was included in part due to his Syracuse ties. He served as a defensive assistant there from 1996-98 before making the jump to Michigan in 1999 and staying in Ann Arbor until 2002, leading to his path into the NFL.
Hired by the Steelers in 2019, Austin began as the team’s defensive assistant and secondary coach. He essentially ran the group over Tom Bradley, the team’s secondary coach prior to Austin’s hiring, and Austin was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2022, replacing the retired Keith Butler. Austin has helped bring a turnover culture to Pittsburgh and the team has routinely been one of the most aggressive and ball-hawking units under Austin’s watch. Last year, the Steelers tied for the league-lead in interception, and entering Week 11 this season, their 18 takeaways tie for the NFL’s top spot.
Earlier in his career, Austin’s name was floated for NFL head coaching jobs. After finding success as the Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator, he interviewed for the head coaching job in 2018, though his agent would later call it a “sham” interview to comply with the league’s Rooney Rule. He was also interviewed for the New York Giants’ head job in 2016, the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017, and reportedly was in consideration for Arizona State in 2017, though it’s unclear if he was ever actually interviewed.
Austin, 58, is respected for his defensive IQ and calmness he brings to a locker room. Former Steelers CB Joe Haden quickly found Austin on the field today, Haden in attendance for the game between the two teams he played for. We’ll see if Austin earns a look from Syracuse later this year.
With one game left in the season, Babers has been fired by the Orange. The team’s head coach since the 2016 season, Syracuse won only one bowl game under him and is 5-6 this season, losing to Georgia Tech, 31-22, on Saturday. Nunzio Campanile is the Orange’s interim head coach.
Elsewhere, DBs Coach Grady Brown has been considered an up-and-comer in the league. While not linked to any specific job, he served as a defensive coordinator in last year’s Senior Bowl, often a sign of the respect and recognition he has around the league. It’s possible he gets defensive coordinator looks around the league during the upcoming hiring cycle.