The Detroit Lions are set to hire former Pittsburgh Steeler cornerback Deshea Townsend as defensive pass-game coordinator, according to a report by Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report.
Townsend, who played 12 seasons for the Steelers from 1998-2009, has been coaching in the NFL since 2011. He was most recently the passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but was let go after the 2023 season, along with defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and then entire rest of the Jacksonville defensive staff.
The 48-year-old Townsend spent two seasons working with the Jaguars. Before that, he was the secondary coach of the Chicago Bears under Matt Nagy from 2019-21. Townsend also had stops as the New York Giants assistant defensive backs coach in 2018 and was the Tennessee Titans defensive backs coach under Dick LeBeau, his old defensive coordinator, in 2016-17.
Townsend spent three years working at the collegiate level at Mississippi State as cornerbacks coach from 2013-15 and two years as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Arizona Cardinals from 2011-12, working under his former position coach with the Steelers, Ray Horton.
The Lions did not have a defensive pass game coordinator in 2023. Aaron Glenn will continue to be the defensive coordinator in Detroit, despite multiple head coach interviews in his cycle. Dré Bly appears to set to return as cornerbacks coach for 2024, so Townsend will likely slot in between those two fellow former NFL cornerbacks.
A native of Batesville, Mississippi, the 5-foot-10 Townsend attended the University of Alabama, where he was a three-time All-SEC selection. He was the Steelers’ fourth-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft and the somewhat undersized cornerback hit the NFL at exactly the right time, as passing offenses exploded and teams employing three full-time cornerbacks first became a thing.
Townsend played 191 games over his 13-year, 183 of them with the Steelers. He was a part of the team’s Super Bowl XL and XLIII championship teams. His best season came in 2004, when he made 15 starts, intercepted a career-high four passes, returning one of them for a touchdown, and also racked up 56 tackles and four sacks.
Despite his deep connections to the Steelers and Mike Tomlin, who coached Townsend for the final three years of his Pittsburgh career, he has never coached for the Steelers. The Steelers have not had an equivalent position to passing game coordinator since Teryl Austin was promoted from senior defensive assistant to defensive coordinator in 2022.