Dec 29, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on the sidelines against the Cleveland Browns during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 20-7. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Steelers force Lebeau out?

Well, the Superbowl is set and all of the NFL world got the match-up it wanted from the start as the Seahawks will face off against the Broncos. Anyone who watched the hate fest between the 49ers and Seattle in the NFC championship witnessed the two best defenses in the NFL far and away, coached by two of the brightest and most inventive in the league, Dan Quinn of Seattle and Vic Fangio of the 49ers, both of whom are destined for head coaching jobs someday.

Seattle and San Francisco also have two of the youngest starting defenses, with the Seahawks sporting the more youthful  of the two. Both are not afraid to start rookies and incorporate young players in, and because of that, both units play with a passion and intensity unrivaled in today’s NFL.

Hey, Pittsburgh….are you listening???

Six months ago I asked if the Steelers DC Dick Lebeau had become a hindrance to the team. And I was met with a mix of venom and support, with some questioning my sanity. Well, here we are and I am no longer asking the question, I am flat out stating it: much as I like him, Lebeau must go.

For those of us who suffered another playoff-less season, the answer to what ails the team became quite clear with each passing week: the Steelers defense has become a major weakness. Age and poor personnel decisions have hurt what was once the best unit in the NFL. Some of that can be attributed to GM Kevin Colbert for not finding proper replacements for departed starters like Aaron Smith, Keenan Allen, Casey Hampton, etc. However, much of the “blame” can also be applied to Lebeau who seemingly has an allergy to letting rookies or young players play right away. We all know Lebeau’s complex schemes play a role in that, he feels a player needs to sit and watch and learn for three years or so before they can make a contribution. Two examples of this are Jason Worilds and Cam Heyward who barely played their first few years, yet enjoyed solid 2013 campaigns once given playing time. And 2013 first rounder Jarvis Jones did start the season with the first team, but didn’t have the impact the team envisioned. Yes, missing time to injury did not help, but how much did Lebeau hold Jones back?

At 76, Lebeau has nothing left to prove. He’s a Hall of Famer and deservedly so. I still feel he is one of, if not the most influential DCs of all time. However, at this point, he would benefit the team by stepping aside and letting a younger coach step in (Keith Butler? Carnell Lake?) and invigorate this team. As of this moment, the Steelers front office and Lebeau have been silent on what his status will be for 2014. By all accounts, this silence may mean more of the status quo for a team loathe to change, which is a bad thing if they are to become a playoff contender again. The 2013 Steeler defense was ugly to watch, giving up big plays and big points, including 55 to New England, not creating turnovers until their fifth game of the year against the Jets, allowing too many big plays and so on. Worse yet, they no longer strike fear into their opposition, as Tom Jackson of NFL countdown pointed out this past year when he said “nobody fears the Steelers defense anymore, they don’t intimidate like they did.” Like it or not, Jackson is spot on.

There are many decisions to be made regarding the defense this off season, namely what to do with the hefty contracts of Lamar Woodley (thanks Colbert!) and Troy Polamalu, who we know refuses to take a pay cut. Add in free agents to be Ryan Clark, Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel and Jason Worilds and there is reason to be concerned about the future of the Steelers defense. The biggest question may be what will Lebeau do and what should the team do about LeBeau. Should they ask him to step down for the good of the team? As I said and as we all know, they do not like to make changes in the staff unless forced to. And even though he turned down the Titans’ offer, how much longer can a guy like Butler stick around? Those in the know have said for a while that Butler would make a good DC, heck even giving Lake a shot would be good. But something tells me that unless something dramatic happens, LeBeau will be back in 2014. And so will a mediocre defense.

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Tags: Dick Lebeau Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Dom DiTolla

    He’s 76, not 72. Although the defense will be mediocre due to the lack of talent and the lack of changes in addition to LeBeau returning. Ben & Co. will be forced into plenty of offensive shootouts next fall.

  • Chris Maxwell

    I agree 100% and have been saying it for three years straight, but look for Dick to coach until he’s 102 and look for a mediocre Defense until then.

  • lkw

    Lebeau doesn’t make personnel decisions, and I’m sure he isn’t the only one with input on who plays and who doesn’t. And what makes you think players that end up playing well would have done so from day 1. It’s like you think heyward was throwing people around at practice with one arm tied behind his back and dick is saying keep it up for 3 yrs and I’ll put you in. He had opportunities in spot duty to make an impression. Lebeau’s time is nearing an end I’m guessing this will be his last year but guess what I’m sure one of his “disciples” will replace him. So what are you expecting to change? We need talent not a new d coach.

    • scott sinclair

      You don’t think Lebeau has any say in personnel? It’s basically up to him who plays in his defense and when. And how do we know if these players would be effective from day 1 if they don’t get the chance?
      And if you don’t think we need a new DC than you’re not being realistic

  • Dennis Zabaglo

    What frustrates me is that he continues to implement the same coverage schemes he has for years. It was great when we had a formidable pass rush, we were able to sit back and let the athletic secondary do their thing. Now we have almost no pass rush and an aging secondary that can’t cover the top receivers with the amount of cushion they are giving them.

  • Carl Eagan

    Yep another bandwagoner. According to this guy Lebeau has the only say, guys like Lake, Butler. Mitchel and Tomlin don’t have any input. The examples are only valid to the soccer moms that agree, Worilds had extensive playing time the last couple of years as did Heywood and Worilds didn’t do much of anything and heywood until this year couldn’t beat out Hood, plain and simple. Using Jones is stupid you either want a rookie to start or you don’t Besides your covering up for Tomlin who is on record saying he felt Jones needed to stay out and learn and become more prepared.

    • scott sinclair


      • Craig

        Scott, you have to understand that Carl gets a little sensitive when people aren’t Tomlin bashing 24/7. Even though we do it enough around here, if that finger starts to point anywhere else he gets his Steely McBeam panties in a bunch and starts going off with incoherent sentences.

  • Kick

    I hope Lebeau is around for the next 10 years. I think it is the athletes on the field that are the issue. This defense thrives on two things stopping the run and getting to the QB. That is something the defense has not done in a while. His defense is absolutely dominant when the players are doing their jobs. We need a replacement for Casey Hampton ASAP. If we had Casey in his prime this d would look completely different. I am not saying he is the missing link, I am just saying we are weak in the middle. Woodley is a disappointment and Jarvis played like a rookie. I think we are solid at MLB but need help in the db department. Clark needs to be replaced and Troy p needs a good backup. If we can get these things worked out everybody will be up on LeBeau’s nuts again. Just my thoughts.

    • scott sinclair

      I agree, Timmons is a solid MLB. Not sure if I’d want an 86 year old DC as you would like, if he does stick around 10 year.

      • scott sinclair

        And I agree as well that the athletes on D just aren’t there anymore. As I said, that’s on Colbert. I still think a move to the 4-3 would help.

        • Kick

          In my opinion the 3-4 is the best overall defense to pressure the QB and stop the run. It more like a 5-2 in its true form and I still think it is the smart direction. The issue with our 3-4 is the D line. No disrespect to McLendon, but he isn’t no Casey Hampton. Hampton took up three o linemen every game. Just because Hampton isn’t slanting to the guards gap doesn’t me that guard isn’t accounting for him first. When you force double teams inside, it forces skill player into blocking OLBs. These are the match ups the defense thrives on, Not having pressure up front really exposes weaknesses in our defensive backfield. To make the switch to a 4-3 would be too costly, our OLBs are too small to play DE. Getting any talent there in the draft would be expensive as far as draft picks go.

          • scott sinclair

            Fair enough. I think though you can bulk Jones/Worilds up a little without losing explosiveness. And while McClendon did alright, they do need a true plugger in the middle like Hampton. Al Woods is a solid rotation guy but he’s not a NT.

  • Thumper833

    Mr. Sinclair you have my Venom! I love that man, sniff…. but you’re right. It’s time to get a fresh perspective on D. We need talent everywhere on that side of the ball. Right now we have Polomalu, Timmons, and maybe Heyward. Every other spot can use an upgrade. Which means rookies will have to start playing. its time to move DL along, as much as we hate to see it..

  • Jollyrob68

    I’ve been calling for a New DC for years. Not that I don’t love LeBeau but we need a fresher perspective from Keith Butler or someone else( Carnel Lake). It’s past time to put a new spin on this Defense.

  • DidusayJenn

    It’s a shame there are people validating your blog with discussion on this topic when you didn’t even bother to google LeBeau’s actual age or apparently even pay attention to the season since not only did the Steelers not play Denver this year, they didn’t give up 49 points to anyone.

    • disqus_UxcsDwRD2u

      Actually, they gave up 55pts to New England….

      • DidusayJenn

        That’s adorable, thank you I am aware they gave up 55 points to New England. I was referring to the imaginary game against Denver that Scott is saying they lost 49 points to. Clearly his opinion is that LeBeau is no longer a good coach, it’s just unfortunate he didn’t feel necessary to try to be accurate in any of his “facts” that he included in this blog. But hey, as long as it is a blog about whining about how awful the Steelers are, that seems to be how this site is going these days.

        • scott sinclair

          Pardon me for inaccuracy. They played Denver last year and got torched. So sorry to offend your senses. Glad your condescending “that’s adorable” makes you feel so superior. And so sorry if it’s not only my opinion, but the opinion of others I’ve listened to and read as well. But you keep living in your adorable bubble.

        • disqus_UxcsDwRD2u

          Ohhh, ok, i gotcha now man, haha, sorry i misunderstood yah….