Tag:Dick LeBeau
Posted on: January 11, 2009 8:45 am
Edited on: January 11, 2009 8:46 am

Steel Curtain + Blitzburgh Defense = Steel Blitz

I would love to sit down and chat with Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White and other legendary…yes, legendary…members of the Steelers defense of the 70’s.  What would I love to chat with them about, of course, the obvious, the defense that I grew up watching.  The one that gained it’s place in the annals of NFL history with being an integral part of four Superbowl wins.  While others began to love the high powered games of offense, my love of defensive battles had it’s roots from this corp, because, even if the offense wasn’t able to get it done, the defense did. 

Their play was brutal and bone crushing.  Truly smash mouth football.  The play that put Greene, Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount into the Hall of Fame.  They’ve been considered one of the best defenses in NFL history. 

For the past four decades, Steelers fans have been accustomed to having some truly great defensive players wearing black and gold.  Kevin Greene, Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Greg Lloyd just to name a few.  Often times, these defenses have been dubbed the Steel Curtain, because they carried over the traditions and the mindset of the original “men of steel”

Perhaps the squad that best epitomized the original Steel Curtain defense is the one that we’re watching prepare for today’s divisional game against the San Diego Chargers.  For a few years, we’ve been watching this squad develop under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and for years they’ve been very good, in the top of the league but this year, is it safe to call them great? 

Perhaps, it’s too soon to do that, after all, the final prize hasn’t been won yet.  Ask any Steeler defender that they won’t consider themselves great until they win the Superbowl on their defense…and that’s what they plan to do too, get to and win the ring on their defense alone.  Remember the original Steel Curtain…when the offense can’t get it done, the defense will?  This is exactly what Dick LeBeau’s defense has been doing this year.  Getting it done.  When the offense struggled, the defense kept their opponents pinned down.  They just fell short of being considered one of the best ever.  They managed, until the last game of the season being first in most aspects of defense, but unfortunately, they fell to second against the rush. 

But we knew this already.  So now Dick LeBeau’s defense heads into it’s first playoff game for the season, rested, healthy and out to prove that they can do it on their own, if need be, and they’re going to do it as a team.  Maybe that’s why the “Blitzburgh Defense” has become so darn good, because they play as a team.  No doubt you have great defenders on every team.  Yet who can you say is instrumental on this defense? 

The front three?  The linebacker? The safeties?  Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel have been instrumental in closing gaps and stopping the run.  Yet if the runners did get through, you had Larry Foote, James Farrior, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and even Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark getting to them.  Take out Woodley and Harrison and Lawrence Timmons steps up just nicely for them.  Take out Clark or Polamalu and Tyrone Carter makes big plays.  Bryant McFadden, Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend and even William Gay have performed superbly on a secondary that years prior was considered suspect.  One member of the defense goes down and someone else steps in and surprises us in a good way.  Even the weakest link, Anthony Smith has stepped up in special teams, helping the Steelers improve to 1st in kick off return coverage and 4th in punt return coverage in the NFL.  Every member of this defense have become ball hawks.

Three Steeler defenders will be going to the pro bowl this year, Polamalu, Harrison and Farrior.  Polamalu and Harrison will be voted to be on the NFL All-Pro team for 2008.  James Harrison will not only be named the Steelers MVP for his second consecutive time, but will have been voted the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  There are three names that will have stood out on this Steelers defense, yet, many more who are just as deserving of recognition on this squad. 

Perhaps the most important component of this squad is the one who doesn’t get named in any awards.  Defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau himself.  This year the Steelers honored Coach LeBeau for his 50 years in the NFL and his “family”, the Steelers defense, made sure they were on the field when he was honored.  Perhaps that is why the Steelers defense is as good as they are.  Not just the play calling, but also the cohesiveness of the squad.  Because of Dick LeBeau, this squad has formed what seems an unbreakable bond that believes they can do anything.  Family, that’s about right for LeBeau’s defense.  And if you were to view the “family portrait” taken this week, somehow, you get a sense that they will do anything.  It’s not a secret that LeBeau’s “family” want to see him get into the HOF, and if winning a Superbowl ring on defense, will do it, then that’s what they’re trying to do. 

As a fan, I’ve had the pleasure to watch LeBeau and his defense evolved.  In 2005, while I was holding my breath as the Steelers made the run to be the first 6th seed wild card team to win the Superbowl, I remember a conversation that I had with one of the CBS Sportsline board members.  Then, we were discussing the defense and how they reminded us of the original Steel Curtain.  As I look back on that conversation, I would have to say we were both wrong.  It’s this years team that compares more to the Steel Curtain then that defense.  How awesome though, that the majority of that 05 defense is still on the 08 Steelers defense, and the new members, well just made the team better. 

The possible reincarnation of the Steel Curtain defense bodes well for the Steelers and their fans though.  This squad, like the original one, knows what it takes to get it done and, somehow, I think they will. 
Posted on: December 8, 2008 6:39 am

I Believe - Shades of 05

There was something, perhaps a feeling, perhaps just some nuances that I’ve noticed over the past few weeks.  Perhaps it was wishful thinking and at first, I thought it might be that, but now, I’m more sure that I’m not imagining things and Pittsburgh Post Gazette sports columnist Bob Smizik  sees it too. 

It was noticed after the Steelers loss to the Colts.  My husband, a Colts fan didn’t rub the win in, instead he sat quietly.  All I said was, “that’s okay, remember the last time the Steelers lost to the Colts in regular season”.  Actually, I remember it well.  It was 2005 and Steelers would end up doing something that was rarely done.  Run the table to get a wild card slot.  The odds were against them. 

Okay, so this year the Steelers aren’t running for a wild card slot.  Barring a total melt down, the Steelers will be in the playoffs, either with the division title or with a WC slot.  But lets rewind a few years.

It was 2005, the Steelers had come off of one of their best years ever with a 15-1 regular season record, but would fail to get to the Superbowl.  The next season, the Steelers offense made a promise to get Jerome Bettis to the Superbowl.  Their schedule wasn’t going to be the easiest, or so it seemed.  Add to that an injury to Ben Roethlisberger’s hand and it started looking like it wasn’t going to happen.  Ben would miss a few games and come back, only to lose to the Indianapolis Colts.  After that loss, something changed and the Steelers would run the tables.  It would be a Cowboys win that would cinch the Steelers with a sixth seed wild card berth.  It was the heart of an offense and the determination of a defense that led the Steelers to their fifth Superbowl win.

They said they had no chance, no, not in 2005 but in 2008.  Facing the toughest schedule in the NFL in, oh, how many years based on 07 results, the Steelers weren’t supposed to have gone this far.  The year before, they’d be knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Jaguars.

Of course, it’s a little different now.  The Steelers are beating the teams they should be beating and staying in the games with the good teams.  Three losses against good teams led critics questioning the Steelers offense.  In 05, it was the Steelers offense getting the headlines, in 08, it’s their defense. 

Since losing to the Colts, the Steelers have won their last four games.  Offensively, most weren’t pretty, but defensively, they were things of beauty.  Bob Smizik would call their last win “magical”.  And perhaps it was, after all, how could an offense who failed to make anything happen for almost three full quarters come back to tie a game against a defense that had sacked Roethlisberger five times and shut down the running game. 

No, the Cowboys game, offensively was not pretty for the Steelers, but the offense did what it needed to do, they played 60 minutes.  What was next, was a thing of beauty, the Steelers defense. 

Perhaps in a sense this is a déjà vu.  Too many things correspond to 05 to be taken lightly. 

  • Being knocked out of the playoffs in 04 to come back for a WC berth and go on to win the Superbowl in 05.  In 07, the Steelers would win the AFC North and be knocked out in the first round
  • Ben Roethlisberger would miss time for a hand injury and his quarterback rating would take a hit in 05.  This season, Roethlisberger’s been nursing a shoulder injury that may have effected his throwing ability.
  • An 05 loss to the Colts led the Steelers to run the table.  After a loss in 08 to the Colts, the Steelers have yet to lose.
  • The Steelers berth in the playoffs depended on the Cowboys beating their opponent in 05.  The Steelers position in the playoffs  could very well come down to a Cowboy win over the Ravens in the last game of the season. 

The major difference is, it’s the Steelers defense playing with heart this season.  Could it be that the Steelers defense wants to win the ring for Dick LeBeau on his 50th season in the NFL?  After all, it’s not a secret that the defense corps believe that LeBeau belongs in the Hall of Fame, after this season, who could argue against it? 

And with the comeback on the Steelers offense against a Cowboys defense that some doubted that they could get past, could prove that the offense is going to help the defense do what needs to be done to get there. 

Playing with heart got the Steelers there in 05 and it’s the same heart that’s driving them towards it this year.  With this defense and the offense getting better with each game, how can I not believe?
Posted on: September 9, 2008 4:16 am

71 years, 50 seasons - Happy Birthday Dick LeBeau

Thinking back the past few months and my struggles with coming to terms with my aging, I guess I could have looked at some noteable persons as inspiration to help me grow "old" with dignity.  There was Mother Teresa, who up to the age of 87 worked with the Missions of Charity in India.  Then you have Queen Elizabeth II, who resides over an entire nation.  Of course there was Joan Collins, who posed for Playboy at the age of 49.    Of course, being the Steeler fan that I am, there's only one obvious choice to look to for inspiration.  Steelers defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau. 

As of today, Coach LeBeau is 71 years young, and what is even more remarkable, this week started his 50th season with the NFL. 

Having started his NFL career as a free agent cornerback with the Detroit Lions in 1959, coach LeBeau remained an active player with them until 1972, having 62 interceptions for 762 yds and 3 TDs.  While active, he would attend three consecutive Pro-Bowls from 1964 - 66.  Once he hung up his cleats, he would go on to coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, two stints for the Cincinnati Bengals (one as a head coach), Buffalo Bills and two stints for the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Dick LeBeau found success with his blitzing defense and has made the "Blitzburgh" defense one of the top ranked defenses in the NFL, as well as one as memorable as the Steel Curtain defense.  We're hoping for another 50 years with Coach LeBeau to continue to bring young talent together and turn out another Kevin Greene, Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Troy Polamalu, and so on.

No doubt that Coach LeBeau is loved, not only by his players, but also by the fans of the Black and Gold.  Because of this we want to say, thank you for staying with us and Happy Birthday.  Two birthday presents I wish for you Sir, a nomination to the HOF and another Superbowl Ring. 
Category: NFL
Posted on: September 7, 2008 9:36 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2008 9:46 pm

It's Steelers Football Babeee - Week One

A bright day, the sun shining down and in the stands the Terrible Towels were waving high and fast in the city of steel.  The Steelers were facing the Houston Texans for the third time in the history of the young Texas franchise.  The electricity of the day, the season opener at home for the Steelers could be felt by this Steeler’s fan through the very screen of the television as I watched the opening of the game.   By the end of the game, the lyrics from Sweet’s song, "Little Willy" kept playing over and over in my head:

North side, east side
Little Willy, Willy wears the crown, he's the king around town
Dancing, glancing
Willy drives them silly with his star shoe shimmy shuffle down
Way past one, and feeling alright
'Cause with little Willy round they can last all night
Hey down, stay down, stay down down

We had questions going into this game.  Would the Steelers extend their winning streak to six straight games at home for the season opener?  How well will the Steelers o-line line hold up to the likes of Mario Williams?  What factor would Willie Parker’s injury from last year play?  Would there be improvement in the special teams play?  In the end, for this day, the questions were answered.

For those who wondered how well the oline would do without Alan Faneca, that was answered by 138 rushing yards allowed by the Texan’s defense and three touchdown runs by Willie Parker.   There would be no doubt that Chris Kemoetu was more then an adequate replacement for Faneca.  The o-line, for the most part, continued to hit hard, giving protection to Ben Roethlisberger and opening up the rushing lanes for Willie to run.  If one were to ask if there was a weak link on the Steelers oline, it would have to be with Willie Colon.  Hopefully Colon will continue to improve and not miss crucial blocks to help protect Roethlisberger.

Ben Roethlisberger seems to have finally come to full maturity, showing quick release of the ball at times to hit his TE Heath Miller and there was no controversy with taller wide receivers when Ben connected with Hines Ward six times, twice resulting in a touchdown.  If there were any questions about the chemistry between the young quarterback and the veteran wide receiver, it was answered in this game.  At the end, Roethlisberger would have an almost perfect night completing 13 of 14 passes, and has shown that this offense could possibly be a complete, pick your poison offense.

The Steeler defense showed why they were the number one defense from last season and promises to be a hard hitting, topped rank defense again this year.  Troy Polamalu proved that he was still an integral part of this defense, not only with his hard hitting stops in his three unassisted tackles, but showed that he can read the play perfectly when Matt Schaub hit him in the numbers, causing an interception.  One exciting player, LB  Lamar Woodley, made Steelers fans proud with his sack on Schaub, as well as a one handed interception.   However, if you were to ask who was the defensive player for this game, no one could deny it would be pro-bowl linebacker James Harrison with six unassisted tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble.  No doubt that the showing of this defense was a great way for Dick LeBeau to start his 50th year in the NFL. 

Also exciting was to watch the speed and the hard hitting defense on the Steelers special teams.  Also considered one of the weaker links in the Steeler’s team, the defensive play of the special teams, yesterday, though they allowed some yardage on punt and kick off returns, the stifled any explosive plays that is possible with the Texans wide receivers.  Jeff Reed was his typical consistent self kicking one field goal and making 5 of 5 of the extra points. 

It wasn’t all Pittsburgh positives though.  Matt Schaub passed for 202 yards, his key receiver, Andre Johnson catching 10 passes for 110 yards, making this duo a viable passing threat in the AFC.  Mario Williams proved why the Texans made him their first one draft choice in 2006.  Williams and the front four played fast and hard against the Pittsburgh’s oline and it payed off twice with two sacks on Roethlisberger, one leading to a forced fumble.  In the end though, Texans just entered hostile terrority where many teams met the same fate on opening day at Heinz Field.

Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau, Bruce Arians and the whole Steelers team played the style of football that we've become use to with this hard hitting team and continues to keep them a dominant force in the AFC and the NFL today.  Welcome to Steelers football. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com