Dick LeBeau to Remain with Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009

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Dick LeBeau to Remain with Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009

Amid rumors he would retire following the Super Bowl, Dick LeBeau confirmed that he will remain the Steelers' defensive coordinator in 2009. LeBeau, 71, made the announcement in a team meeting.

LeBeau has been involved in the NFL for a half century: 14 as a player and the past 36 as a coach.

LeBeau's defenses have ranked first (2008), first (2007), ninth (2006), fourth (2005), and first (2004) since he returned to Pittsburgh after a three-year stint as head coach of the Bengals.

He is the father of the 3-4 scheme and the use of "fire zones" to confuse offenses with QBs rarely knowing which players will blitz.

Things that he does schematically are geared toward putting his players in position to play. He's a unique teacher that way.

As a Carolina Panthers fan, I appreciate LeBeau’s ability to put his players in the correct position and spot on the field to play, as my Panthers often lined up out of position in presnap.

Please excuse my excesses and repetitive data about a man many consider as the best assistant coach in the league and perhaps in the entire history of the NFL.

He has been a part of the National Football League for half a century a.k.a. two-and-a-half scores a.k.a. five decades a.k.a. 50 years.

50 NFL seasons.

I’m 53 1/2 years old.

Dick LeBeau is on  his second tour of duty with the Steelers, for whom he experienced much success during the mid-1990s as both the team’s defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator.

Considered the architect of the Steelers’ famed “zone blitz,” LeBeau was named the Steelers’ defensive coordinator Jan. 16, 2004, after spending the 2003 season with the Buffalo Bills. He is one of six assistant coaches who remained on Pittsburgh’s staff following Mike Tomlin’s hiring in January, 2007.

His impact on the coaching staff was profound as the Steelers returned to the top of the NFL in total defense and rushing defense. In 2005, LeBeau’s defensive game plans played an integral part in stopping four of the NFL’s top five offenses in the AFC playoffs, including limiting Seattle to just 10 points in Super Bowl XL.

He continued his success in 2007 as he helped the defense finish the season first in overall defense, third in pass defense and third against the run.

In 2008, his defense is ranked No. 1 in the National Football League in overall defense.

Prior to his return to Pittsburgh, LeBeau served one year as the assistant head coach with the Buffalo Bills and the previous two-plus years as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.

After six seasons in Pittsburgh from 1992-96, when he coached the secondary (1992-94) and then was defensive coordinator (1995-96), LeBeau returned to Cincinnati as the Bengals’ assistant head coach/defensive coordinator (1997-2000). He was later promoted to head coach Sept. 25, 2000, (after three games) and served in that capacity for two more seasons.

LeBeau began his coaching career as a special teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1973-75. He also was an assistant coach at Green Bay (1976-79) and Cincinnati (1980-83), before serving his first term as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator from 1984-91.

Prior to entering the coaching ranks, LeBeau produced an outstanding pro career, with the Detroit Lions, from which he still holds the NFL all-time record of 171 consecutive games for a cornerback and currently is tied for seventh all-time in the NFL with 62 career interceptions.

Remember LaBeau played in 12 and 14 game seasons.

Repeating:his nine interceptions in 1970 led the NFC and his 62 career interceptions ranked third in the NFL at the time of his retirement. LeBeau also appeared in three Pro Bowls.

LeBeau may be one of the five best Detroit Lions players in franchise history.  He’s top ten for sure.

Why doesn’t LeBeau have a bust at the Hall of Fame?

Repeating one more time: he was third on the all-time interception list when he retired; his 62 interceptions are nearly twice as many as the Steelers' starting defensive backfield this season has (37) combined, in a total of 23 NFL seasons.

He also should be in the Hall of Fame one day as an assistant coach.

Did you realize exactly how much Steelers players love, respect, appreciate, and honor Dick LeBeau?

Steelers defensive players dug into their pockets for $300 apiece to buy throwback vintage jerseys honoring Dick LeBeau, their defensive coordinator, a couple of years ago.

Year before last, the players pulled out those jerseys and wore them to the Hall of Fame exhibition game in Canton, Ohio. During the season, on the occasion of LeBeau's 70th birthday, his players presented him with a Rolex watch.

During the 2008 season, those players stood on the field during a driving rainstorm to help honor LeBeau commemorate his 50 years in the NFL.

Again, please excuse my excesses and repetitive data about a man many consider as the best assistant coach in the league and perhaps in the entire history of the NFL.

LeBeau may be the most beloved coach in the game.

He's also one of the most accomplished. The Steelers' defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL in 2008, allowing more than 300 yards just once in 18 games, counting playoffs. During the regular season, Pittsburgh allowed 24 yards per game fewer than Baltimore's second-best defense.

At 71, although he could pass for 45, LeBeau is the oldest coach in the league. His resume of innovation includes the zone blitz.

He is so well respected that when the then-34-year-old Mike Tomlin, himself a defensive coach, became the Pittsburgh head coach before the 2007 season, he deferred to LeBeau.

Tomlin's background included work with Tony Dungy, using the 4-3 alignment and the Cover-2 strategy. LeBeau uses the 3-4 and an assortment of blitzes. The Steelers' defense continues to play, very successfully, in LeBeau's style, not Tomlin's.

Some of the players on the current team admit they were concerned about what the coaching change might portend. The concerns faded away once Tomlin decided he would retain LeBeau as his coordinator.

Mike Tomlin is wise.

It's always the head coach's decision in the end. But give the head coach credit for deferring to a defensive coordinator who was playing in the Pro Bowl before the head coach was born.

Tomlin, asked about his background in the 4-3, pointed out he coached defensive backs in a 3-4 defense in college. But he was never in charge of an overall defense until he became coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings in 2006, a year before landing in Pittsburgh. The Vikings were a 4-3 team.

What do Tomlin and LeBeau share in common regarding their defensive philosophies?  They both are fundamentalists.

Dick LeBeau is one primary reason that the Pittsburgh Steelers are favored to win Super Bowl XLIII and why I will pick his team to win.

After a half century in the NFL, LeBeau just might have the right defensive schemes and zone blitzes to counter the veteran QB of the Arizona Cardinals, Kurt Warner.

Sources: foxsports.com, rotoworld.com, steelers.com
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