He has 390 hours of flight time and a multiengine pilot's license and he flies whenever he can. Once the Packers paid for flying time for him while he visited 26 schools in nine states on a scouting tour. "I got started because of my brother," he says. Austin's brother, a Navy pilot, was killed in Vietnam last December.
When Bill was hired by the Steelers some NFL owners felt that Rooney might be making a mistake. "He'll try to copy Lombardi, "one of them said. "He's been with Vince too long. You can't try to be a little Lombardi with the Pittsburgh personnel. It won't work."
"I heard a lot of that talk myself," Austin said recently. He was relaxing in the notably unplush coaches' room in the Steeler training camp at the Fairgrounds in South Park, outside of Pittsburgh. The dressing rooms are in a building that, fittingly, houses an emergency hospital. The practice field lies within a harness track. The dressing rooms had been part of Art Rooney's frank revelation of the hardships awaiting a new Steeler coach.
"I don't try to copy Lombardi," Austin said. "That would be the worst mistake I could make. I learned a lot from Vince, but I don't agree with everything he does or thinks. For instance, I'm more apt to use young ballplayers than he is. He won't use a rookie in a league game if he can help it. Me, I'll go along with a young player. I think all players should feel that they are part of the club. I learned things from my experience with the Rams, too. I took that job so that I would be exposed to different methods."
One of the things that Austin took to heart from his long experience with Lombardi was discipline, a quality conspicuously lacking in Parker-coached Steeler teams. The Steelers had acquired a reputation as the playboys of the East. It was a reputation not entirely deserved, but Austin established a rigid curfew upon taking over in training camp.
"I figure you need five things to win in this league," he said. "First, you have to have the players. Second, they have to have the desire. Third, you have to have discipline, on and off the field. Fourth, you have to have good coaching. Fifth, you have to have the cooperation of the management. When I came to the Steelers I wasn't sure about the first two. But I knew we would have the last three. A few of the guys tested me on the discipline and got caught and they paid the price. I haven't had any trouble since."
Austin ran a taut ship, and at first there were grumbles. Art Hunter, who had been the regular Steeler center, walked out of camp one day.
"He said he was tired of it," Austin said.
"We all got pretty tired at first," says Dan James, a good Pittsburgh offensive tackle who was hurt in the second game of the season, against Detroit, which the Steelers won 17-3. "But Austin gave us a better feeling, a feeling of confidence. I think Buddy Parker had lost contact with the players. We couldn't get through to him. But you can sit down and talk to Austin. He understands a player's problems because it wasn't too long ago that he was a player himself."
James, who played in 1965 at a weight of 270 to 276, weighed a little over 250 when he was hurt. Austin doesn't care for fat men.