Ex-Steelers defensive coordinator LeBeau says 'goodbye' to Pittsburgh

Bob Bauder
| Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, 1:56 p.m.

On Tuesday morning, Dick LeBeau was given a key to the city. By Tuesday night, he had reportedly been given the keys to the Tennessee Titans defense.

LeBeau, the much admired Steelers defensive coordinator, who helped the team win Super Bowls in 2006 and 2009, found a new employer, according to a report in the Nashville Tennessean.

Hours after telling reporters at a Pittsburgh City Council ceremony that he had “talked to some people” about coaching again, LeBeau agreed to join Ken Whisenhunt's staff in Tennessee as assistant head coach/defense. LeBeau, 77, and Whisenhunt were Steelers coordinators on Bill Cowher's staff for Super Bowl XL.

“Whatever happens next we'll embrace it, and whatever the Lord's got in store for us we'll roll up our sleeves and go after it,” LeBeau said at the ceremony.

LeBeau recently turned down a defensive coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals, saying he wished to remain close to his Cincinnati home.

City Council honored the Hall of Famer, who left the Steelers in a mutual parting last month, with a declaration of February as Dick LeBeau month.

LeBeau bid the city farewell with a paraphrased stanza from the “Night Before Christmas,” a poem he traditionally recited from memory to players at Christmastime.

“A lot of times I just can't see the good part of goodbye, so I'm not going to say that,” LeBeau said, surrounded by family and friends. “I'm going to paraphrase the last line of a poem that I've come to be associated with a little bit around this city... ‘But I heard him, ere he drove out of sight, God bless you all people of Pittsburgh, and to all good night.'”

A standing ovation broke out in the packed room as LeBeau with tears in his eyes hugged Councilwoman Darlene Harris of Spring Hill, who presented him with a proclamation and a plaque bearing the honorary city key.

Speaking for the family, daughter, Laura LeBeau of Louisville, Ky., thanked Pittsburgh for extending “love and respect” to her father.

LeBeau has been a popular figure in Pittsburgh during two stints with the Steelers: coaching defensive backs from 1992-94 and as defensive coordinator starting in 2004.

He played 14 years as a defensive back for the Detroit Lions after being cut during training camp by the Cleveland Browns.

In 2010 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

LeBeau singled out the contributions of Steelers defensive players from the 2008 Super Bowl team, two of whom — defensive end Brett Keisel and linebacker James Harrison — attended the ceremony. He described each player, and at one point to the delight of the crowd mimicked legendary Steelers announcer Myron Cope commenting on Troy Polamalu's long hair.

Harrison claimed stage fright when asked to speak. Keisel described LeBeau as one of the NFL's greatest defensive innovators.

“I will forever be grateful for his influence in my life, and I love you to death coach,” he said.

Speakers lauded LeBeau as a defensive innovator and man of integrity, honesty, compassion and love for people.

“He made everybody feel like you were the most important person in the world,” said Bill Priatko of North Huntingdon, a friend who roomed with LeBeau during Browns training camp in 1959.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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