LeBeau wants to come back as Steelers defensive coordinator
Dick LeBeau's coaching resume might be unmatched by any defensive coordinator in NFL history. If it's up to him, it won't end with the Steelers' disappointing 2013 season.
LeBeau said Thursday he wants to coach for a 42nd season in 2014, and he hopes the Steelers want him back to run a defense that has led almost every major statistical category since 2004.
“I've been blessed to be able to coach this long, and I want to coach, obviously. Because I am a coach,” said LeBeau, who will be 77 at the start of next season. “Again, we'll have to see if people want you to coach.”
LeBeau's contract situation isn't known, but the Steelers' approach long has been that if he wanted to remain in coaching, they wanted him to be their defensive coordinator. If he had ever left, he likely would have had multiple coordinator offers, even at his age.
“He's revered as a coach,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “You hear so many things (from other NFL players), ‘Oh, you're part of a Dick LeBeau defense.' ”
But the Steelers are 13-16 over the past two seasons, and many core defensive players likely will be gone soon, perhaps as early as next season — Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark and Larry Foote among them. James Harrison and Casey Hampton left after last season.
But LeBeau, the team's defensive coordinator for 10 seasons following a two-year run in 1995-96, said an exodus of the players he coached through multiple Super Bowls wouldn't be a reason to retire, just like it wasn't when James Farrior and Aaron Smith were released after the 2011 season.
“In 2004 we went 15-1 and I think we had defensive numbers that are off the charts,” LeBeau said. “But there is almost no one around here that was on the 2004 team. So we've gone through this progression and turnover. It's part of the National Football League.”
Foote said “there hasn't been even as much as a rumor” among the defensive players that LeBeau might not return. Several players said LeBeau has not discussed the subject with them.
“A lot of us would not have had the careers we've had if it weren't for him,” Clark said. “He's the type of coach that stands up for his guys and sticks up for and loves his players. He's an identity. He's an attitude.”
Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones has marveled at LeBeau's knowledge, his ability to teach and the respect he has for his players.
“He brings energy every day, (especially) for a guy that is his age and has been doing it for as long as he has,” Jones said. “It's got to motivate you, just to play for a guy like him, a Hall of Fame coach.”
LeBeau prefers not to talk about his situation but is aware it will be an issue as the end of a season approaches, if only because of his age.
“This is the time only to think about our players and getting them better,” LeBeau said. “But I feel great. I feel strong, and we'll see if people want you to come back.”
Asked if he thinks what retirement might be like — he has been an NFL player or coach for 55 years — LeBeau said, “This is a very time-consuming profession. There is no offseason anymore. … We're all mortal, and you have to understand that, but it doesn't come into play too much because I'm too busy.”
And when does Foote think LeBeau will stop coaching?
“When they carry him out in a box,” he said, laughing.
“He's a pretty smart man. That's one thing I've always liked about him,” LeBeau said when told of Foote's comment. “He's a very intelligent player.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Steelers notebook: Team seek ease on West Coast travel
- Steelers notebook: Harrison return complicated by LeBeau, Titans
- Steelers re-sign WR Heyward-Bey to 1-year deal
- Rooney not expecting much more out of free agency for Steelers
- Steelers notebook: Cornerback need will wait until draft
- Tomlin expects Steelers offense to grow