Pittsburgh Steelers fans, probably still reeling from the Super Bowl Loss to the Green Bay Packers, can breath a little easier today as the zen-master of the 3-4 defense, Dick LeBeau, has agreed to return for another season.
The 73-year-old LeBeau told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he intends to sign a one-year extension with the Steelers, making it his 10th with the team in this current run. LeBeau has traditionally gone year-by-year on his contract with the Steelers.
"I’m not coaching anywhere but here," LeBeau said "This is the only place I will coach, so long as they want me."
Under LeBeau, the Steelers defense has ranked an average number 3 in the league and has never gone lower than 9th. This past season, the unit ranked second overall and first against the rush.
Dick LeBeau is the heart and soul of the Steelers Defense and has the unquestioned love and support of his players. If the Steelers had lost him to retirement this offseason, it would have been a major blow to the unit and the team as a whole. LeBeau is a Hall of Fame coach who is, even in his 70’s, one of the smartest coaches in the league. He is responsible for the creation of the zone blitz, a defensive move that practically revolutionized the defensive side of the ball.
"Necessity is the mother of invention.” LeBeau said when asked about the genesis of the zone blitz this past Super Bowl Media Day. “ The run and shoot was very much invoked. Houston had Warren Moon, who was practically unstoppable with the people that he had, throwing the ball all over the place. The West Coast Offense was very similar to the run and shoot in terms of a quick release of the ball. It spread out the defense and cut it up. The blitzes that were in place at that time, they had the answers to. We defenders had to come up with something a little bit different and this was the thought that I had. I’d like to say it worked immediately, but we went through a lot of blind alleys. We just kept sticking with it. I think, again, this was in the early 80s, so it was about 30-something years ago and so I think it’s going to be around for awhile."
The Steelers defense may be aging, like it’s coach, but also like LeBeau, they are a unit that defies their years and just keeps getting better with age. When he finally retires, that may spell the end of a Steelers defensive dynasty but for now, and maybe a few more years, Pittsburgh will have LeBeau under a headset and a defense that is one of the best in the league.
“I always say that in order to work, you have to have somebody that wants you to coach.” LeBeau said. “I’ve been fortunate in that regard. I just go each year and see if they still want me to coach.”
They want you, coach, and they may never let you go.