Teryl Austin would do it again.
On Sunday the Bengals led the Steelers, 21-20, and Pittsburgh had the ball on the Bengals 31 with 15 seconds left. Plenty of time to run a few plays that would give Chris Boswell a chip-shot field goal for a guy that has never missed against the Bengals on 22 field-goal attempts. Austin, Cincy’s first-year defensive coordinator, knew it was now or never. Boswell is 0-for-3 from beyond 40 yards this season. If the Steelers ran, an all-out blitz would stop it. If they passed, an all-out blitz would get the pressure they had lacked all day. If quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went with a quick flip in the middle of the field, it could go all the way.
Austin went with the percentages, but Antonio Brown beat the house taking it to the house, tucking the flip all the way for the winning touchdown as all of five seconds ticked off the clock.
“I wanted to force the hand, and again, they made a better play,” Austin reflected Monday. “They had a better call than mine. I didn't want to sit back, I didn't want to play passive, we had played some coverage, tried to bring some pressures through that whole series … I knew they had three timeouts and I wanted to make sure they didn't get any more yards. They were right at the fringe of where we thought they were able to kick it, and my thing is I wanted to get a negative play, I wanted to go after them and make them have to make a decision. It didn't work this time.”
Austin likes to blitz. That fits his philosophy of not being passive in a pass-happy league. He won’t stop.
“The one thing I don't ever want to do, I don't want to second-guess myself, I don't want our players to second-guess themselves when they're out there playing,” Austin said. “So we're going to play aggressively. We're playing to win. And I thought at that point, that gave us the best chance to win. I didn't want to leave it into the field goal kicker's hands and allow him because it's not every day you block a field goal … I think that's how you have to play in this league. If you play and you play conservatively all the time, you may not reap the rewards you want.”
_With SAM linebacker Nick Vigil expected to be out a month with a sprained knee, Austin is looking for a new guy to wear the helmet communicator. Vincent Rey wore it after Vigil went down late in the first quarter and ended up playing 47 scrimmage snaps after playing only two before Sunday. Austin indicated he had decided Rey would get more time even before Vigil went down with an eye to those eight years he’s played the Steelers.
“He had hurt his ankle in the preseason and this was about the time we felt he was as close to 100 percent,” Austin said. “So we liked his veteran leadership in this game.”
Austin won’t make a call on who gets the helmet until after a week of practice he sees who’s healthy. When Vigil went down, WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict had to ramp up his return in his second game back when he played nearly double his 34 snaps in the first game with 61 Sunday. Austin think he’s rounding back OK.
“He's getting there. He probably was a little bit more than he was expecting yesterday,” Austin said. “Nick went down and it kind of screws with your rotation a little bit in terms of bringing them back slowly. But he handled it well, he came out a little bit in the second and was back in there for most of the second half. He fought his way through it and that was good to see.”
_Austin had no problems with Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix’s block that took out Vigil or with Burfict’s hits. He had no comment on what could have been called an illegal pick on the winning touchdown or the holding call on cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick with 22 seconds left.
“I can't comment on that stuff. That's for the league to decide. My job is to try to teach my guys how to play through it,” said Austin of the winning TD.
_One of those guys that’s going to have to learn to play through it is second-year slot cornerback Tony McRae, whose 20 snaps on Sunday marked a career-high. It looks like Darqueze Dennard is out at least Sunday night in Kansas City. Mr. McRae, meet Mr. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs quarterback and author of an NFL-leading 18 touchdown passes.
“I think our guys will rise up to the challenge. I think we're looking forward to going out and playing better football than we did last week,” Austin said. “And (the Chiefs) are, they're doggone good. There's no denying that. They can score in a hurry, and they can score a ton of different ways. So our job is to keep a lid on that as best as we can.”