Former Steelers coach Austin dies
Bill Austin, a Vince Lombardi disciple who failed to produce a winning record in three seasons as the Steelers’ coach from 1966-68, has died at age 84 in his home in Las Vegas.
Austin was a longtime NFL coach and player who also served as the Redskins’ head coach for one season.
With young Dan Rooney beginning to assert more control in the Steelers’ front office, the team broke from tradition and hired Austin — an assistant coach best known for his six years and two NFL titles on Lombardi’s Packers staff — as their head coach in 1966.
Austin succeeded Mike Nixon, who had gone 2-12 in his only season as the Steelers’ coach in 1965.
Despite trying to transform an organization that had long relied on veteran players and eschewed the draft for building a roster, Austin went only 11-28-3 as the Steelers’ coach.
“Bill Austin was a great contributor to the growth of the National Football League as both a Pro Bowl lineman and coach,” Rooney, the Steelers’ chairman, said Thursday in a statement. “He was highly recommended for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coaching job by Vince Lombardi, who Austin served as the line coach for in Green Bay and Washington. Austin was an excellent person when he coached for Pittsburgh and our condolences go out to his family. He will be missed.”
Despite Austin’s lack of success, the Steelers went out and hired another assistant coach off a successful team to replace him: Chuck Noll, who went on to deliver the first four NFL championships in Steelers history.
Austin went on to succeed Lombardi as the Redskins’ coach in 1970 after Lombardi died of cancer just before the start of the season, but finished 6-8 and was replaced by George Allen the following season.
Austin was a member of the Giants’ 1956 NFL championship team and was a Pro Bowl guard in 1954 during a playing career that lasted seven seasons. He coached for eight NFL teams — mostly as an offensive line coach — and another in the USFL, concluding his career with the Jets in 1985.