Q&A: Dick LeBeau

Dick LeBeau wore No. 56 at Wednesday's practice as he continues to honor the players who helped him reach the Hall of Fame. LeBeau talks about that and more below.

Dick LeBeau, defensive coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: What's the thinking behind the wearing of your players' jerseys?

A: That one's easy. The first day of OTAs, Mike (Tomlin) had all the thirtysomethings on the team stand up, offense and defense, and then he talked about their dedication to the program and the things that they have worked for, and then he tied it in with the whole team and, you know, the younger players coming in for the first time. And I thought, ‘Well, quite a few of these guys standing up are defensive guys. I'll just start wearing a jersey of our thirtysomething guys.' Of course, James Farrior's our captain. I started with him and just went from there. Right now I'm out of thirtysomething guys and I'm just hitting the defense in general.

Q: Why did you pick LaMarr Woodley's jersey today?

A: LaMarr went to the Pro Bowl. He made a lot of plays for us. I think it's worth saluting the way he's played. He's played hard and he's played well.

Q: Why are they all so tight-fitting?

A: Our players, I think, sometimes get held in the National Football League, and they tailor these jerseys to make it more difficult for them to be held. Of all the jerseys I've had on, James Farrior's was by far the tightest. I'm a shriveled up old man and I could still barely get into his jersey.

Q: These are the actual jerseys that they wear?

A: This is their game jerseys.

Q: So why was Casey Hampton's so tight?

A: Casey's wasn't so bad. That's why I looked forward to that day. It'd be tight on Casey, I can tell you that, but it wasn't bad for me.

Q: They wore your jersey for the Hall of Fame Game in 2007 and another game previous to that. Which game was that? And what was your reaction?

A: They all had throwback jerseys made for when we played Detroit in Pittsburgh in the '05 championship season when we needed to win that game to qualify for the playoffs. That was a tremendous honor, but I told them, ‘You damn well better win this game, men.' That was the other game. I don't have any trouble remembering the two games they did that.

Q: Was it Joey Porter's idea?

A: I think he was one of the guys involved. I think there were a few guys. Joey might've set up the shirt maker, a guy who makes beautiful jerseys, and they all got them from the same guy.

Q: Your induction into the Hall of Fame will make those thirtysomethings very happy. Can you put into words what it means to you?

A: No, I don't think I can. Every day I get up and pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming about this situation. Ever since I got the phone call from the Hall of Fame I'm not sure my feet have touched the ground. It's certainly a lifelong dream come true. It's almost too good to be true. I'm just grateful for all the people who have helped me. Certainly those thirtysomethings on this defense that have kept my name current probably did as much or more to make this thing happen as anyone, and I will never forget that or them as long as I live.

Q: Well, they are thirtysomethings. What do they have left for this season?

A: We try not to dwell on the past. All we talk about his productivity and what's coming up. I think we've got an excellent mix of good veteran players with what I would call middle-experience players, and then we've got some good young players already established, and I think we're going to get some young players from this draft, this rookie class, to help us. So I think we've got a real good mix. I've already told the players that we're expecting to be playing very constant, solid defense this year.

Q: What was the problem last year? Was it injuries?

A: Well, you know, it's a funny thing. You almost end up, by the nature of the questions I receive, that people try to put you in that apologetic vein. But our defense was fifth in the league last year. That means there were 27 teams that weren't that good. I think year-in and year-out most people would be happy to be in the top five. When you're No. 1 three of the previous six years, it becomes what people expect and what we expect and that's what we want to get back to. But I don't really feel comfortable talking a whole lot about what went wrong when you're fifth in the league. We certainly can do a lot of things better: getting out of those games in the fourth quarter with wins and eliminating the big plays, which has been a constant for us. We were hit with more of those last year. So those are some things we have to do better.

Q: So, by setting the bar so high, it becomes kind of difficult being Dick LeBeau sometimes, doesn't it?

A: Oh, it's not hard being Dick LeBeau. I welcome that challenge any day.


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