Many staphylococcal bacteriophages encode a minor capsid protein between the genes for the portal and scaffolding proteins. In Staphylococcus aureus bacteriophage 80α, this protein, called gp44, is essential for the production of viable phage, but dispensable for the phage-mediated mobilization of S. aureus pathogenicity islands. We show here that gp44 is not required for capsid assembly, DNA packaging or ejection of the DNA, nor for generalized transduction of plasmids. An 80α Δ44 mutant could be complemented in trans by gp44 expressed from a plasmid, indicating that gp44 plays a post-injection role in the host. Our results show that gp44 is an ejection (pilot) protein that is involved in deciding the fate of the phage DNA after injection. Our data are consistent with a model in which gp44 acts as a regulatory protein that promotes progression to the lytic cycle.