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Steelers notebook: LeBeau wants to return

| Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, 12:18 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers tightend Heath Miller plays against the Eagles at Heinz Field Aug. 19, 2011.

Even at age 76, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau doesn't plan to retire next season after again fielding the NFL's top-ranked defense, even during a subpar season.

“That would be up to Coach (Mike) Tomlin. Let's just say I really like Pittsburgh and I really like working for the Steelers,” LeBeau said. “Coach Tomlin will tell you if he wants me back or not. It will be up to Mike.”

Nose tackle Casey Hampton doesn't believe there is a better-prepared defense in the league.

“I'll put our guys up against anybody and against any defense,” he said.

• Win close games, have a good season. Lose close games, have a bad season. If there's any theorem that holds up from season to season, this is it. The Steelers have lost five games by three points or fewer, just as they did when they went 9-7 and missed the playoffs in 2009. Their total number of such losses in 2011, '10, '08 and '07? Three. Not surprisingly, they were 12-4 in three of those seasons and 10-6 in the other. “It just shows you the separation, the thin line between being a playoff team and going home early,” safety Ryan Clark said. “We didn't win enough.”

• Tight end Heath Miller was voted by teammates as the Steelers' Most Valuable Player. Several of them called it an easy choice. Miller is the first tight end selected since the award's inception in 1969. The announcement Thursday came on the same day Miller had surgery to repair three damaged right knee ligaments. Miller has a team-leading 71 receptions and eight touchdowns. “I have been saying for years that he is my favorite player, but we just never coached it up to where he got the opportunity to come out and show what he has been able to do,” safety Ryan Clark said. “If you look, game in and game out this year, when he got opportunities to deliver, he delivered.”

• Mike Adams, who started six games at right tackle before injuring an ankle, was selected from an injury-thinned field as the Steelers' rookie of the year, an award named for Hall of Famer Joe Greene. The Steelers were 4-2 when Adams started. Nose tackle Casey Hampton was chosen for The Chief Award for media cooperation, named after Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. Both of those award winners were selected by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.

• Offensive coordinator Todd Haley understands that change hasn't always been easy for Ben Roethlisberger, who spent the previous seven seasons in former coordinator Bruce Arians' offense. The quarterback was critical of the play-calling recently. “It's not always the easiest thing because it's not always comfortable, and you have to adjust. That goes for all parties involved,” Haley said. “But that doesn't mean it's not right. Coach (Mike) Tomlin made a change. I was fortunate enough to be the guy that was chosen. You want to make your boss right, and I believe we will.”

• Now that he's run the offense for a season, Haley feels better prepared for the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine and draft. A season ago, his knowledge of Steelers players was based mostly on watching game video. “You get a much clearer picture of your needs, at least on offense. You have a much clearer picture of the players. I personally have a much better feel for all of the coaches, who I didn't know very well when I came here,” Haley said. “I believe we will just do nothing but get better, which is what we have to do.”

• Maurkice Pouncey is the first center in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl each of his first three seasons. Not that Roethlisberger is surprised. “I may be biased, but I think other people are seeing that he's the best center in the game,” he said. The most such selections for a Steelers center? Nine, for Hall of Famer Mike Webster.

• Cornerbacks Curtis Brown (ankle) and Keenan Lewis (knee) and receiver Mike Wallace (hip) were held out of practice Thursday for the second consecutive day. Adams (ankle) was out after getting limited work Wednesday.

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