LeBeau Fires Up Steeler's "D"

When Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher revamped his coaching staff after a 6-10 season a year ago - one of the key moves was the return of Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator.

The 2003 Steelers were a passive defense. No Cowher team had fewer quarterback sacks than the 35 his 2003 team produced. No Steelers team over a 16-game season forced fewer than the 25 turnovers they had last season.

LeBeau in his second stint in Pittsburgh has made the defense "Blitzburgh II." They finished the regular season as the No. 1 defense. The 258.4 yards per game they allowed this season edged the Bills for the league's top spot. It is the fewest yards allowed per game by a Steelers defense since the 1990 team gave up an average of 257.2 yards per game.

It not as surprise that the defense has responded to LeBeau as they prepare to face New England in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. To a man the Steelers' defense would run through a brick wall to please LeBeau.

"He's meant everything to this defense, Steelers' linebacker Joey Porter explained. "He's giving us a whole new outlook on defense, how we approach the game, the way we're going to go after people. We're always going to do what we do instead of adjusting to what the other team's going to try to do to us. When you can know that you're just going to go out there and do your same thing no matter what, you can always play at your best; you can play fast, you can do the things that you want to do because you're going to play the defense the way you want and you don't have to make too many adjustments. I think that's when we're at our best-when we're playing the way we want to play."

LeBeau took a young secondary and molded it into one of the team's strengths.

"I definitely think he came back and put a spark back in us, letting us do what we like to do, and that's play physical, play fast, play aggressive," Safety Chris Hope said. "The thing he implemented that I see as the difference was that he's a player's coach, he puts his best players in a position to make plays, and he definitely relates you to what you do best: if you're a great pass rusher, he lets you blitz; if you're a great cover guy, he puts you in a position to have the opportunity to make interceptions. He definitely took all the confusion out of the defense. Everything is simple, plain, so we don't have to think about nothing."

LeBeau was a great player during his playing days and holds the NFL record for cornerbacks with 171 consecutive games played. His 62 interceptions in 14 years with the Detroit Lions rank seventh in NFL history.

The fact that he was a great player is not lost on his defensive players in Pittsburgh.

"Oh yeah, he always mentions how good he was and what he did, can we be better than him?, and how he played the game, so we definitely look at it as a challenge," Hope said. "He's a fun guy to be around, he's a motivator, and we definitely try to feed off of what he does-every day he comes in with a different theme and we just try to build off of it."

The Steelers face a tremendous challenge in their second meeting this season with the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, but the defense has an unwavering belief in LeBeau and what he is mapping out for them.

"He's gonna put us in the best situation for us to win," Cornerback Deshea Townsend explained. "He knows a lot about defense and I'm just glad to have him as our coordinator right now."

"Dick brings a belief. He's kind-hearted, he's soft-spoken. But he's an animal, Defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen stated. "He played like an animal. Every now and then you'll see spurts of it. It's exciting, man. It gets you going. You want to do well, not just for your players, for him, for Bill."

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