Dick LeBeau: Looking back at Super Bowl XLIII

Earlier this year, SteelCityInsider.com publisher Jim Wexell sat down with Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau for an extended interview about Super Bowl XLIII. Here's the first part of the three-part interview:

I'd love to hear any interesting anecdotes you might have from the game, or the week leading up to the game.

In all honesty, people sometimes think you have a great time at the Super Bowl. Well, when you're coaching in it, it's no great time. You're so focused on ‘What am I missing? What haven't we covered? What can I help them with?' It's a great game. It's a tremendous game. But as a participant, from a coaching standpoint, there's almost no enjoyment. You know, you're darn glad you're there, but you realize that you don't get there that often and you sure don't want to leave a stone unturned that might help your guys. So you're just really focused and grinding. I'm sure there are great anecdotes for you to uncover, but I don't even know they happened because you're watching your guys and trying to see if they're where you want them. Maybe you put something in that shouldn't be in and you want to throw it out. You're preoccupied with those types of thoughts, so I miss a lot of the human interest type stuff.

One of the good things about the Super Bowl is it comes after the season so you've got 16 games and two or three playoff games to look at the opponent. And one of the bad things about the Super Bowl is you've got 16 games and two or three playoff games to look at the opponent, and coaches will generally avail themselves to all of it, so a lot of your time is spent looking at video. Even though you've got the two weeks, that's a lot of games. You might see something somewhere that will help you, so, I look at them.

What did you see? It appeared your game plan was built around stopping Larry Fitzgerald.

Well, the thing was, especially in the recent history, he had just demolished the teams in the playoffs. At halftime in the championship game he had more yardage and statistics than anybody had had practically for the whole postseason in that half, and you knew darn well that you couldn't let that happen. We tried to keep that from happening. He got the one play against us. Perhaps one of the outstanding things about our defense this year is those types of plays didn't happen. Usually, you get through a course of a 16-game season in the NFL and two competitive playoff games, somewhere, someplace, that's going to happen, but it didn't happen and that is probably as great a testimony to these guys' consistency this year as anything you could say. That's why that play is the abnormality. It really magnified it. Nobody had done that on us.

That was the longest play all year?

Oh, for sure. Oh, easily. I think the only other play that had any significant yardage to it was the one that Ike had intercepted against Indianapolis and it popped on through there. I think that was maybe a 50-yard play. Both of them were kind of fluke-ish, but in the NFL, believe me, that can happen two times in a quarter. These guys went virtually 19 games without that happening.

Fitzgerald caught one pass for 12 yards through three quarters.

That was probably true, but a little bit circumstantial, too. He's going to catch more than that no matter what you're playing against him. You're not going to keep him down the whole game. Our thing there was we'd treated him like you would a prolific scorer in basketball. Say a guy's averaging 40 points a game. You know he's going to get 18 or 21; you just can't let him get 45. That's how we went into that game with him. Really, had he not had that one play, I think our guys did a great job against him. The way it turned out, it just gave Ben a little more time to get down there and score for us anyhow.

I know you had Troy up there in press coverage every now and then. And Ike was in press coverage in the cover-2. Was that the gist of your plan?

Well, Troy, you know, he's pretty well noted for being anywhere anyhow, and he's a great master of camouflage for us. You're liable to see him anywhere bumping, way deep, then inside there next to Farrior at the linebacker spot. We encourage it within parameters. It makes us harder to plan, because everyone's looking for Troy anyhow and Troy sometimes is deceitful. He lines up not where he's going to be, and that, when you put in his ability to make plays, makes us better.

I asked him about the big pass to Fitzgerald. He said the play before that they had done something short and out and he was late getting up there, and so the next play – the TD pass to Fitzgerald – he jumped it prematurely.

Actually, he went on his side and Ryan went on his side, so both safeties kind of went on the out. I'm sure it was something they'd seen, like Troy's relating to you. We encourage our players to trust their instincts. Nobody's right 100 percent of the time. Again, we messed the play up. To me, the significant thing about that play was there was nothing like that the whole season, and usually you'll have five or six of those types of plays. At this level, with the players of this caliber, this speed, this agility that you're playing against, it just magnifies what our guys got done. When you look at our numbers, the yards allowed per reception, allowed per throw, allowed per snap, you can't have any plays like that, and they didn't. So I'm proud of them even though they messed that one up. You're always going to have some that don't turn out the way you want them to.

Do you remember that Tampa team in 1979 that holds the record for fewest yards allowed per snap?

I didn't pay any attention to it, because in my mind, really, if it was before 2000, you're almost talking about a different game. I mean, those numbers that our guys were putting up were 1960 numbers, really. Whether they caught them or didn't catch them, it was remarkable what they were doing from a statistical standpoint. They didn't end up too bad from a won-loss standpoint, either.

I kidded Troy that he was a 4.3 (40) coming out of college and Fitzgerald, who ran a 4.6 or so, ran by him. He said, ‘That was 20 pounds ago!'

I think Troy could catch him but I think Troy took himself out of it, as he alluded to you already. He gave himself so much to make up that he couldn't get there. In that race, I'll take Troy anytime. I'll take Troy against almost anybody. His want-to is more than a lot of guys.

Read Part 2 on Thursday morning here at SteelCityInsider.com.

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