A lot of speculation was created by the Super Bowl hype machine that is Dick LeBeau's final season as Steelers defensive coordinator. In typical Dick LeBeau fashion, he was frank in his response that in 2011 he would still be on the Steelers' sidelines running one of the best units in the game.
Many people wondered why LeBeau would stay on another year after achieving the highest honor in the sport when his bronze bust was placed in Canton.
I can't say that I have met with LeBeau, but there are two glaring reasons on why LeBeau would stay on for 2011: groom a new "Blitzburgh" general, as well as tackle the final change of the spread offense. This offseason, a strange week occurred within the Steelers coaching staff.
Almost everyone knew that Pittsburgh was going to send a coach off to their West Coast branch in Arizona to fill the vacancy at defensive coordinator. The Cardinals' first choice, Keith Butler was not allowed to speak to the team.
The Cardinals instead hired defensive backs coach Ray Horton, who was replaced by the Black and Gold with Carnell Lake. Ultimately, deductive reasoning tells us two things.
First, the Steelers have plans for Butler. Dan Rooney hired Mike Tomlin because he liked Tomlin's coaching philosophy. So far, it has been the head coach and not coordinator/coach like so many of his colleagues.
The Steelers almost always stay internal when it comes to non-head coaching staff, hence Carnell Lake. Butler is more than likely the prodigy of the combined defensive knowledge of both Tomlin and LeBeau, and there is no possible way the Steelers will part with him that easily.
LeBeau is more than likely staying around to help Lake coach the position he played during his Hall of Fame career, as well as imparting more knowledge on Butler including how to handle the spread offense.
This is the second reason I believe LeBeau decided to go through with one more season. Against non-spread oriented offenses, the Steelers won all but one game against Baltimore, which was not due to a lack of defensive effort or production. Against the spread offenses, the Steelers were shredded and blown out by New England and New Orleans, run over by the New York Jets and dissected by the Packers in the Super Bowl.
While Dick LeBeau is by no means a Bill Belichick in terms of desire to be the absolute best by all means necessary, but many critics looked at his struggles in Cincinnati as head coach as justification for Hall of Fame rejection. While LeBeau won't be remembered as a failure in Pittsburgh, there is no doubt that his 3-4 zone blitz has found its kryptonite with the spread offense.
If the Steelers are going to win a Super Bowl, LeBeau will have to be more creative than ever and find a way to defeat the spread, something that may be just the icing on the cake for his career.
So as the scheduled 2011 opening date approaches, Steeler fans rest assured in knowing that this year LeBeau's back, and possible, better than ever.