Where has the time gone Steeler Nation? Seems like just yesterday, Dick LeBeau was just returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a defensive coordinator for the second time after serving as the team’s head defensive coach for the first time in 1995. When LeBeau returned in 2004, he brought a stronger edge than he did the first time, helping the franchise win two Super Bowls.
LeBeau wasn’t just the best defensive coach to ever put on a headset, he was also a great player in his time. In 1959, LeBeau was drafted in the fifth round out of Ohio State by the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland cut LeBeau in training camp but the Detroit Lions took a chance on the defensive back. That decision led LeBeau to a Hall of Fame career.
LeBeau played across the field from another Hall of Famer in Dick “Night Train” Lane. LeBeau believes that is the reason why he recorded 62 interceptions, which is a Lions’ franchise record, because no quarterbacks would want to throw the ball on Lane’s side of the field. LeBeau was just as durable as good. His 171 consecutive games played is an NFL record for a cornerback.
LeBeau entered coaching as soon as his playing days ended. In 1973, LeBeau became a special teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. After spending three seasons with the Eagles, LeBeau spent time with the Packers, two terms with the Bengals, one year with the Bills, and two terms with the Steelers. His last stretch with the Steelers lasted eleven years as the team’s defensive coordinator. LeBeau has spent 56 straight years in the NFL, and at 77 years old, his players will tell you he lives every day like he is still in his prime.
With his eleven years in Pittsburgh, LeBeau has made so many defensive memories in the Steel City. LeBeau has crafted some of the greatest players to ever put on a Steelers helmet. Guys like Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton, James Farrior, Brett Keisel, James Harrison, Aaron Smith, and Ike Taylor have all been groomed by the legend.
In Super Bowl XLIII, the most exciting play in Super Bowl history was made possible by a great dial up by LeBeau himself. The zone blitz, which was created by the great defensive coach. James Harrison returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown in the remaining seconds of the first half when it looked like the Cardinals were going to score a touchdown.
There is nothing LeBeau hasn’t done as a player, coach, or man in this league. He is a Hall of Fame player and coach. He has Super Bowl rings, led defenses to number one overall in the league several times and has experience and wisdom for everybody. Now that he is no longer with the organization, it is important to remember everything he has done not just for the Steelers but for this great sport. So with that being said, as our great coach would say: “It’s a great day to be alive!”