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Family familiarity: Harbaugh brothers share information

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By Scott Brown
Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011
 

San Francisco 49ers first-year coach Jim Harbaugh could gift wrap the AFC North title for his older brother, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, with a victory over the Steelers on Monday night.

Naturally, the siblings spoke this week to talk shop -- and the Steelers.

"We talked about (the Steelers)," Jim Harbaugh said, downplaying the conversation. "We talked about last week's game, talked about this week's game as we often do."

Since John Harbaugh became Ravens coach in 2008, he has faced the Steelers 10 times, including the playoffs. Whatever he has gleaned from those encounters could help him as much his as brother, as the Ravens and Steelers are tied atop the AFC North with 10-3 records.

John Harbaugh checked with a Ravens official before talking to his brother about the Steelers, just to make sure it is allowed. But such information sharing likely is common in the NFL, considering how many coaches have worked together.

"Guys have tried it in the past, help each other out," said Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who is with his fifth NFL organization. "(John Harbaugh) might have what he thinks are tendencies in certain areas, probably more knowledge of the personnel than the schemes."

Arians paused and grinned.

"I'll tell (Jim Harbaugh) Mike Wallace is fast," Arians said.

As the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback, Jim Harbaugh almost beat the Steelers in the 1995 AFC Championship Game. He hasn't needed much help since taking over the 49ers. San Francisco has clinched the AFC West after winning just six games a season ago.

"He's coaching the way he played quarterback, a lot of fire and enthusiasm," Arians said. "It's good for the league."

The Harbaugh brothers' success -- Jim had coached at Stanford before jumping to the NFL -- has been one of the league's more compelling storylines this season.

"It's a great testimony to that family, those guys, but the best coach in the family is their dad," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said.

Jack Harbaugh, a former longtime assistant in the college ranks, coached at Pitt in 1987-88.

"I'm going to look over and see if he's on the (49ers') sidelines," LeBeau said jokingly. "That's a great family."

Still, the Harbaugh family's familiarity with the Steelers likely will not play much of a factor Monday.

"There's no guarantee that the Steelers are going to play the 49ers like they play the Ravens," said former NFL coach and "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden. "I never put a lot of stock into it."

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