Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" Defense Continues Under Tomlin, LeBeau

Dustin ParksAnalyst IMay 28, 2009

PITTSBURGH - MAY 01:  Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers watches practice alongside defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau during rookie training camp at the Pittsburgh Steelers Practice Facility on May 1, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

When the Rooney family decided to hire Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin as the successor to Bill Cowher in 2007, they added youth to their coaching staff. At the same time, they hired a coach with the experience to lead a strong team known for their defense.

Tomlin was coming of a season with the Vikings that saw the defense finish first against the run and eighth overall. Before coming to the Vikings, Tomlin spent five years in Tampa Bay as the defensive backs coach.

His most successful season in Tampa Bay was in 2002 when he helped lead the Buccaneers to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. Against the Raiders, the secondary got four out of the team's five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Knowing that Tomlin would be well involved in the Steeler defense made him a natural fit in the coaching staff.

Just as Tomlin was key in the success of both the Vikings and Buccaneers defensive units, his current defensive coordinator, Dick Lebeau, brings experience both as a coach and as a player.

The 2008 season was LeBeau's 50th in the NFL and his 36th as a coach. Considered the man behind the Steelers "zone blitz," Lebeau has been the Steelers defensive coordinator since the 2004 season, beginning his second run with the team.

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LeBeau first served under the Steelers from 1992-1994 as the secondary coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 1995. He then returned to Cincinnati in 1997 as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. Lebeau was promoted to the Bengals head coach three games into the 2000 season and held that position until 2003 when he went to Buffalo before returning to Pittsburgh.

Tomlin and LeBeau complement each other's coaching style. That combination led the Steelers to the No. 1 ranked defense in 2008 in both total defense, 237.2 ypg, and passing defense, 156.9 ypg. The Steelers rushing defense in 2008 finished with 80.2 ypg, second only to the Dallas Cowboys.

Pittsburgh's defense has long been known for their ability to shut down opposing offenses, dating back to the era of the "Steel Curtain" of the 1970s. Tomlin and LeBeau have shown a new "Steel Curtain" defense that is possibly one of the greatest defenses of all time.

The Steelers are looking to continue their hold as the top defense in the NFL in 2009. With a combined 45 years of defensive coaching experience, Tomlin and LeBeau will be leading the charge to bring Pittsburgh its seventh Lombardi Trophy.