From 1992 through 1994, Capers was the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive coordinator and Dick LeBeau was the Steelers' defensive backs coach.
On Sunday, two of the game's most revered defensive coordinators — and winners of three Super Bowls — will match wits at Lambeau Field when Capers and the Green Bay Packers host the Steelers. Their defenses will be virtual clones.
"Obviously, his record proves that he's one of the finest coaches in the league ever," Capers said on Friday. "He's a great person. You talk to anybody who's met him, been around him, he's just a tremendous guy. He relates to people very well. Had a great career as a player – obviously, a Hall of Fame player. To do what he's done for as long as he's done it is amazing."
A quarter-century ago, defenses needed answers. When Capers coached under Jim Mora with New Orleans, the Saints' defense needed an answer to the Joe Montana-led and Bill Walsh-inspired West Coast offense. When Capers went to Pittsburgh, the Steelers' defense needed an answer to the Warren Moon-led run-and-shoot.
The answer was pressure. Building on what Capers was part of in New Orleans, Pittsburgh became known as Blitzburgh. The run-and-shoot has come and gone but the attacking, zone-blitzing 3-4 scheme remains as relevant today as it did when Capers and LeBeau worked together two decades ago.
"Necessity is the mother of invention," LeBeau told Packer Report before Super Bowl XLV. "The West Coast offense was very similar to the run-and-shoot in terms of quick release of the ball, spread out the defense. The blitzes that were in place at that time, they had the answers to. We knew defenders had to come up with something a little bit different."
On Sunday, it will be Packers coach Mike McCarthy who will have to craft a game plan to beat LeBeau's defense.
"My goodness, coach Dick LeBeau, how can you not (respect his career)?" McCarthy said. "Fifty-five years in the National Football League as a player and a coach, has done it for such a long time and at such a high level. The one thing about every one of his defenses that you have the opportunity to compete against, they're physical, they tackle well and schematically they challenge you. Really incredible coach."
Packers safeties coach Darren Perry speaks with reverence about LeBeau, as well. Perry played safety for LeBeau with the Steelers from 1992 through 1998. He said he never considered joining the coaching profession until LeBeau reached out to him in 2002 when LeBeau was the Bengals' head coach.
"He gave me my first coaching job," Perry said. "I owe a lot to him. He's my guy. I can't say enough good things about him. I love him like a father. He's a good man."
At age 76, LeBeau is coming under some pressure in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have allowed 332 points — their most since yielding 345 over 16 games in 2002. Pittsburgh is on pace to allow 379 points, its most since 1988.
At age 63, Capers is coming under some pressure in Green Bay, too.
"Dick is a very good friend," Capers said. "We went into Pittsburgh together. We roomed together when we were first there. He's an amazing guy. I think you saw in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech that if he would've retired when everybody told him he should've retired, he wouldn't have won two Super Bowls. He wouldn't have had his high school jersey retired. They named a building after him. He went through all these things that he said, ‘If I would've retired when they told me I should've retired, all this wouldn't have happened to me.' He said my mother taught me life is to be lived and you should live it to the fullest. To me, that kind of exemplifies his approach and he's still at the top of his game."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.