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Former Steelers Cornerback Hired by Lions

Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback DeShea Townsend is joining the Detroit Lions coaching staff.



Steelers Deshea Townsend
Former Steelers CB Deshea Townsend with Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson, Oct. 29, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback DeShea Townsend is joining the Detroit Lions organization as their passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach. Townsend was fired by the Jaguars, but now finds a spot in Detroit, where he will join Antwaan Randle-El on the staff.

Townsend, who played 12 seasons for the Steelers from 1998-2009, has coached in the NFL since 2011. 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.