Tag Archives: Dick Lebeau

State of the Steelers Franchise

The Steelers went 8-8 in the 2013 season and failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season. The last winning campaign came two years ago (12-4) and, head coach, Mike Tomlin heads towards his eighth season knowing that he needs to get something done.

The Steelers front office, with General Manager, Kevin Colbert, will have to make some shrewd moves in free agency, particularly when dealing with his own players.

One of the first things they must prepare for is to start the 2014 season on the right foot; their first quarter play this year brought them a 0-4 record in a tough division that always left them playing catch-up with the rest of the field.

There had been much talk about the Steelers’ coaching staff but that appears to have got a real injection of experience and intellect. Pittsburgh have hired James Saxon as running backs coach and Mike Munchak, the former Titans head coach, to train the offensive line. However, question marks remain over offensive coordinator, Todd Haley.

Defensively, things remain the same, with Dick LeBeau still in charge of the back line; although, it is now looking like the defense needs new blood and fresh faces. Fans betting NFL know cap space has always appeared to be a problem in Pittsburgh and again work is required.

One of the developing storylines could involve three Steelers regulars – Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, and Heath Miller; they combine for $32 million in cap room. All three will be candidates for contract extensions or pay reductions, and if an agreement cannot be reached, they could be released.

Free agency is always a worry for any franchise and the Steelers have 21 unrestricted free agents on their roster but only six are current starters. They now need to consider what their needs are in the draft; largely, defensive positions, but some NFL betting pundits believe they could find themselves wanting at cornerback and safety in the new season.

The Steelers enter the 2014 offseason with plenty to address but with a relatively sound foundation to build on.

Florio Confirms His Stupidity, Again

Sporting News reporter Mike Florio confirms his stupidity in his latest article.  Florio provides us a list of 5 players that should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame compared to 5 players that should not be included in the Hall of Fame.

Florio is so biased against the Steelers it's almost humorous but yet exhausting.  Purely opinionated, most consider Florio and Pro Football Talk the paparazzi of the National Football League (NFL) reporting.

In his list of 5 players that should NOT be in the Hall of Fame include both Dick Lebeau and Lynn Swann.  Out of all the players in the Hall of Fame, Florio picks 2 Steelers in his list of 5.  Big Surprise!

If Florio looks at Lebeau's statistics like he does everyone else, then he'll see that Lebeau clearly deserves his Hall of Fame bid.

Lynn Swann not deserving to be in the Hall of Fame is laughable.  Maybe the most clutch wide receiver in playoff and Super Bowl history.  He compares Swann's stats which are in fact on the low end, to today's players.

Someone needs to tell Florio to wake up.... Swann played in a completely different era and mostly in a run first offense.  How can you possibly compare Swann to a wide receiver of today which is a "pass first" league?

I guess Florio doesn't take in consideration a players playoff appearances & wins as well of Super Bowl rings in his analysis of who should get into the Hall of Fame.

If Florio still has any sport writer credibility left, he lost it all in his latest article:

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=tsn-fivewhoshouldbeinthehallo20100806

The Super Six

The Super Six

The Pittsburgh Steelers are Super Bowl XLIII Champions.  How sweet it is to bring back another Vince Lombardi Trophy to the city of Pittsburgh.  It is well deserved.

I had to wait a few days to write this blog to let the victory sink in.  To be honest, I am still in the process of reading every Super Bowl article on the internet still.  You name it, the Post Gazette, Tribune-Review, ESPN, CBS SportsLine, Yahoo! Sports, etc.  I just can't get enough of this Super Bowl victory.  It was perhaps the most emotional game I have ever watched.  I can honestly say that I thought destiny (and the referees) were against us when I saw Larry Fitzgerald score a touchdown, to take the lead, with just under 3 minutes remaining.  I thought the game was over.

Then, our franchise QB, Ben Roethlisberger marches 88 yards down the field (in spite of a holding call on Darnell Stapleton).  To cap off the drive and the Super Bowl victory, Santonio Holmes made one of the best catches I have ever seen and possibly the best catch in Super Bowl history.  Give huge props to Big Ben Roethlisberger; he put together possibly the best 2-minute drive in Super Bowl history.

I won't review the game since you all have probably seen all the highlights and read all the analysis you can handle at this point.  However, in a future post, I will add all the Super Bowl XLIII highlights to our Steelers photo and highlight gallery.  What I will review is a few plays and thoughts from the Super Bowl.

James Harrison returns interception for 100-yards
The interception return was easily one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history and is now in the record books as the longest play for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.  I couldn't believe what I was watching and was going crazy in watching him go yard-by-yard on the way to a pick-six.  I think I was gasping for air just as much as James Harrison was by the time he reached the end zone.  That play was simply unbelievable.  That was most likely, at a minimum, a 10-point swing.

Troy Polamalu lining up face-to-face with Larry Fitzgerald
I personally think this matchup wasn't talked about nearly enough and should have been one of the post-game story lines.  Larry Fitzgerald, the best athlete on the Arizona Cardinals (and best WR  in the NFL) matched-up with Troy Polamalu whom is equally as athletically gifted.  Polamalu played bump and run with Fitzgerald to try to slow him up a bit and delay him from 'hitting his routes'.  The media downplayed this matchup.  Most people questioned why Kurt Warner didn't get the ball in Fitzgerald's hands earlier but you can't throw the ball to the guy if he's double and sometimes triple covered.  Give Ken Whisenhunt credit for moving Fitzgerald around later in the game to get better matchups.  I thought Dick Lebeau and the Steelers D should have started moving Troy Polamalu around to 'spy' Fitzgerald later in the game.  They didn't do it and you saw what happened.  Fitzgerald started torching our secondary.

Larry Fitzgerald scoring with just under 3 minutes to play
This was a devastating play and it really showcased why Fitzgerald is the best in the business.  He's got the intelligence, the speed, leaping ability, and the hands to dominate in this league.  I really thought this was going to end up being the game winning touchdown.  Larry lined up in the slot, beat his man, split the seam and was off to the races.  Troy Polamalu took a gamble and the Steelers defense paid the price.  Polamalu was over aggressive and attacked the out pattern which opened up a huge hole down the middle of the field.

Larry Fitzgerald beating Ike Taylor on the fade route
This is just another showcase of this guys ability.  Also, give props to Ike Taylor because he had absolutely incredible coverage.  It's just that if Fitzgerald gets his hands on that football in a "jump ball" situation, he almost always comes down with it.

The play of Big Ben
In watching this game, Ben Roethlisberger had an absolutely incredible game and really deserved the MVP award and that's not taking anything away from Santonio Holmes because he had an amazing game as well.  Ben Roethlisberger made some plays that showcased why he's an elite quarterback in this league.  His scrambling ability to buy time in the pocket was amazing.  In particular, the throw to Heath Miller in the first quarter while buying time and throwing across his body displayed his underrated athleticism, arm strength and his field vision.  Steve Young said it best (and I'm NOT a Steve Young fan) when he asked Ben, 'How do you do that', 'Do you have eyes in the back of your head'.  It sure seems that way, Young.

The playmaking of Roethlisberger doesn't stop there either.  His pump fakes caused the Arizona Cardinals cornerbacks major headaches as well as his ability to extend the play in the pocket.  His accuracy was "spot-on" in the biggest game in the world (or maybe I should refer to the Planet hereJ ).  For example, his 1st down throw to Holmes on the last drive displayed his accuracy and arm strength.  His throw out of the end zone (which resulted in a safety due to the Hartwig bogus holding penalty) was equally impressive.  His 2-minute drive was typical Ben fashion.  Even though I'll admit that I wasn't confident at the point, I knew that with Big Ben this game was not over.

The game winning touchdown pass to Holmes in the end zone was perfect.  It couldn't have been thrown in any other place.  If Ben threw that ball a foot to the left, it's intercepted.  If Ben throws that ball a foot to the right, it's out of Holmes' reach.  Ben was simply incredible on the biggest stage in the world and in my mind, is well on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer.  Did I mention he's only 26?

Holmes Breakout Party (and a bit on Hines)
The play of Holmes' was equally as impressive.  He just made play after play after play.  I give him huge credit because I knew that the extra coverage was going to be rolled his way because of the injury to Hines Ward.  I thought the first reception to Hines Ward was instrumental because it scared the Cardinals in thinking that he was healthier than what he really was and opened the door for Holmes.

Hines played more of a decoy role in this game but he's equally as good.  The guy is a flat out football game that plays the game the way it was meant to be played.  Hines Ward plays tough, healthy/hurt, emotional, physical and great.  He's the ultimate Steeler and I can't wait to see him inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

With Ward not being 100%, it was time for Santonio to step up.  And step up he did, by winning himself the Most Valuable Player honors.  The media hype up rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all week and said he would shut down one of the Steelers receivers.  Well, that was far from the truth.  I think Holmes took a little offense to that as well.  Cromartie was used and abused by Holmes all game.  It was a complete mismatch and the Steelers exploited it.

Other Notes:

Offensive Line - While they played a decent game, especially the tackles (wow, did I really say that?) it just makes me wonder how good Big Ben would be with a solid o-line.  I think we'll see the offensive line addressed this offseason.  I am predicting that they'll be one new starter at guard and tackle come next year.  Our offensive line in short yardage situations is a terrible though.  The Steelers failed to score a touchdown on two occasions (1inside the 10 yard line, and 1 on the inch yard line) that could have put this game WAY out of reach, early.

Coaching - Overall, I think the coaching was good.  Both Whisenhunt and Tomlin had their guys prepared to play.  I'm more impressed with Mike Tomlin more than ever now.  I guess a Super Bowl victory in your second season will do that.  Bruce Arians had a better than expected game plan but I would have thought, I'd see more passes to Heath Miller especially with the early success.   Dick Lebeau had a great game plan as well but that is nothing new.  It's great that he'll be back next season!

Linebackers - The Steelers 'backers had an amazing game.  Harrison is simply a beast and must be accounted for on every play.  Woodley is an all-pro type player and we should be lucky to have him and he's only in his second year!  He dominated Levi Brown all day and clinched the game with the forced fumble.  Foote is still solid and very good against the run.  James Farrior is Mr. dependable and is the leader on defense.  He had a great game and is well deserving of his Pro Bowl status.  Farrior is playing like he's 24 years old, not 34.  It's a credit to his preparation.  Lawrence Timmons is a star in the making.  Timmons has his troubles in run defense, but he's great in pursuit, an explosive hitter, great in coverage, and has speed and burst.

Coach Lebeau Set to Retire?

Per a rumor by Pro Football Talk (PFT), Dick Lebeau may retire after Super Bowl XLIII.  As mostly everyone knows, Dick Lebeau is the beloved Steelers defensive coordinator and the inventor of the zone blitz schema. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers (not just the defense) should win this Super Bowl for their future ‘Hall of Fame’ coach Lebeau.  What would be a better treat then winning this one for him since he’s been so instrumental to the Steelers success both past and current.  His defense plays the way football was meant to be played.  In addition to winning Super Bowl XLIII for coach Lebeau, the Steelers players should carry their coach off the field on the player’s shoulders.  That’s the type of respect that Lebeau deserves. 

All current and past Steelers players feel strongly for the coordinator and praise him not just for his coaching ability and personality but they respect him as a ‘dad’ type figure.   In fact, many players have referred to him as coach ‘dad’.  Players love him, opposition fear him. 

Coach Dick Lebeau is well respect (and well deserved) not just throughout the Pittsburgh Steelers organization but also within that National Football League circles.  He was a Hall of Fame player (is not yet inducted but should be) and a legendary coach.  In fact, some coaches including Baltimore Ravens (now NYJ head coach) coach, Rex Ryan have even studied coach Leabeau’s defensive schemes and reused it within their own defensive schemes.  Lebeau has been praised by former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst as saying “Dick LeBeau is arguably the best ever to coach defense. … He has done it on such a consistent basis over a long period of time.”

Note to Steelers players…. Let’s win Super Bowl XLIII for Coach Dick Lebeau!

Steelers-Ravens Gameplan

Offense

The Steelers offense needs to be at the top of their game today versus the Ravens. The key to the Steelers is easy. They need to convert on critical third downs and do not, under any circumstances, turn the ball over. If the Steelers don't turn the ball over, I believe they win this game. The Titans should have won last week against the Ravens, but turnovers was the deciding factor.

I expect the Steelers to open up the game in a spread offense. The Steelers should spread the Baltimore Ravens defense out with 4 and 5 wide receivers. The Ravens secondary is a bit beat up with Rolle out so this could result in Nate Washington having a big game.  This will neutralize the Ravens' heavy blitzing and make a tough defense respect the Steelers passing game. The Steelers offense should not play conservative and tight. This will play right into the Ravens defensive plans which will make this game a much closer game than what it could be. Heath Miller and Mewelde Moore should pose significant receiving threats to the Ravens. Also, the offensive line will be a huge matchup against the Ravens imposing defensive front. The Steelers offensive line played their best game against the San Diego Chargers a week ago, but the Ravens are a much better and more aggressive defense. If Hartwig, Colon, Starks and company can keep Big Ben clean then the Steelers should be successful at Heinz Field today.

Defense

The #1 Steelers defense must play opportunistic football today at Heinz Field. The Steelers are relatively healthy today and will pose a huge challenge to the Baltimore's rookie QB, Joe Flacco. Dick Lebeau will try to confuse Flacco will different defensive looks. Per ESPN, the Steelers defense are going into this game with over 100 defensive plays at their disposal. The Steelers defense must shut down the Ravens running attack early and often. This will put the game on Joe "cool" shoulders which is exactly what the Steelers want. If McClain and Ray Rice have success running the football, the Steelers could be in for a long frustrating day.

Expect Troy Polamalu to be all over the field again today. Troy will start things off supporting the run defense as being an 'extra' in the box. Then, he'll drop back into a zone on obvious passing downs. Also, it is absolutely critical that LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison can get to Flacco today. Last game, the Steelers had trouble getting to the quarterback without sending more defenders than what the Ravens could block. This could expose our secondary and Flacco has the offensive line and the strong arm to make the Steelers defense pay for their mistakes. It is very important that the Steelers pass rush is at their best today. This will make Flacco make quick and possible poor decisions which could result in turnovers. Turnovers which will hopefully result in points in favor of the Steelers.

Predictions

Turnovers is the name of today's game. If the Steelers o-line can protect Big Ben and give Willie Parker some room to run then I expect the Steelers to be victorious. If not, the Steelers could be in for a long and disappointing afternoon. The same goes for the Ravens, if the Steelers can stop the run, and get to Flacco early and often then the Steelers will have an excellent chance of winning today's game. I am going to be optimistic in this prediction but I feel the Steelers win: 27-17.

Offensive Player Of The Game: Hines Ward

Defensive Player Of The Game: LaMarr Woodley

Rivers poses significant challenge

Philip Rivers, QB, of the San Diego Chargers poses a significant challenge for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense tomorrow afternoon at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Rivers who was considered for offensive player of the year is leading his team to a strong finish down the stretch.

For the 2008 NFL season, Rivers has racked up quite the statistics with over 65% completion percentage, 34 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and boasts a quarterback rating of 105.5. Based on these statistics alone, Rivers can make a strong case for offensive player of the year considering that he matched the same touchdowns as Drew Brees, but threw 6 less interceptions. Most of this weeks media has been geared towards LT, and Sproles, but the Steelers must not get caught up in the media hype. The Chargers real star of the year lies in the hands of their quarterback.

To put Philip Rivers great season into prospective, let’s compare his 2008 stats with Ben Roethlisberger’s 2007 pro bowl year. In 2007, Big Ben posted a completion percentage of 65.3%, 32 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a QB rating of 104.1. These statistics are almost identical to Rivers. Steelers fans know the great year that Big Ben had, so it’s not very difficult to see that Rivers has had his career year thus far.

However, Rivers struggled in his last meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers top ranked defense by going 15-26 for 164 yards and two interceptions.

Expect Dick Lebeau to dial up blitzes heavily on Rivers and force him into making inaccurate reads and bad decisions. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are coming off some much needed rest and I expect them to get to Rivers early and often in this matchup.   Add that to Pittsburgh weather conditions of win, snow (6-8 inches) and a rabid Steeler fan base, I say .. advantage, Steelers.

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