If defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is not back with the Pittsburgh Steelers next season, it will be because they don’t want him back as the 76 year-old Hall of Famer made it known on Thursday that he has no plans to retire.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to coach this long, and I want to coach, obviously. Because I am a coach,” said LeBeau, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Again, we’ll have to see if people want you to coach.”
To say that the Steelers defensive severely underperformed this season would be an understatement and it has been mostly a result of their failure to not give up the big play, stop the long run and tackle consistently. Those are three things that LeBeau has always stressed that his defense needs to do over the years in order to be successful.
As far as stopping the run goes, the Steelers defense has allowed an average of 4.33 yards per carry heading into their Sunday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. That high average is the result of six running plays of 23 or more yards that gained a total 334 yards. Remove those six plays and the average drops all the way down to 3.46, which would be good for second best in the league heading into Week 15. However, if you cherry pick stats from one team, you have to pick them for all teams.
We have talked all season about the big passing plays allowed by the Steelers defense and in the loss this past Sunday to the Miami Dolphins they allowed their 12th one of 40 yards or more.
As far as sacking the opponent’s quarterback goes, that too has hit a new low for a LeBeau led defense as the sack per pass attempt ratio currently sits at 6.07% for the season. In case you are curious, that ranks them 26th in the league in that stat.
However, when asked Thursday if he thinks his defense needs rebuilding when it comes to stopping the big play, LeBeau stated that he doesn’t believe that to be the case.
“We’ve had some games that there haven’t been any big plays in. In the past when we’ve led, it was almost every game,” said LeBeau. “The biggest malady that we have experienced this year is significant, big yardage plays, which we have to eliminate. I definitely don’t think that the defense needs rebuilding. Maybe their coach is getting a little old [Smiles]. I think the players can still get it done. I do.”
If LeBeau is not back next season, the Steelers more than likely would turn the defense over to linebackers coach Keith Butler, who has been considered by many to be the defensive coordinator in waiting for several years now. With the transformation from older to younger players on the defensive side of the ball likely to be 99% completed during the upcoming offseason, team president Art Rooney II will have to decide if the old to young transformation will also include a switch from LeBeau to Butler.
As for LeBeau, he’s only focused on these final three games.
“This is the time only to think about our players and getting them better,” LeBeau said Thursday. “But I feel great. I feel strong, and we’ll see if people want you to come back.”