The interview seemed innocuous enough in typical Troy Polamalu fashion.
Polamalu, who talks softly but carries a big stick on the field, isn’t one to cause a controversy with something he says. In fact, he’s known for doing anything but that.
But when asked this week whether or not he felt Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was being given more freedom this season than in the past under Bill Cowher, Polamalu came out and said what many have thought for a while now.
“I think he has more control (over the defense),” Polamalu said of LeBeau. “I don’t think they have any reigns on coach LeBeau that I know of. We are a lot more active. We’re not as conservative, we’re kind of initiating what the offense needs to do, not just reacting to what they do.”
And there it was. Polamalu didn’t say it and he wouldn’t have said it if pressed, but he obviously felt that Cowher tended to get a little conservative at times on defense.
New head coach Mike Tomlin, a proponent of the cover-2 defense, was supposed to be the more conservative one. But it appears Tomlin is willing to allow LeBeau the freedom that Cowher wouldn’t.
“I think he (Tomlin) has so much respect for coach LeBeau, rightly so, that he just said, ‘Hey, do what you do best,”’ Polamalu said.
For Tomlin, it was a matter of allowing the Steelers to do what they are best suited to accomplish.
“First and foremost, we have players here that have been acquired to fit that scheme and what they do, they do well,” Tomlin said. “That’s coaching to me. Put your guys in a position to do well. It’s no question that we have people that have continuity with the scheme. From a staff standpoint, I have known some of these guys for quite some time. I have a lot of knowledge on and a lot of respect for Coach (Dick) LeBeau.”
Certainly Cowher wasn’t always overly conservative on defense. In fact, when he first became head coach of the Steelers in 1992, he was considered a risk taker and somebody who used a defense that constantly attacked.
But let’s be honest, we all become a little more conservative as we age. And in 15 seasons with the Steelers, there were plenty of times when the players felt they were being reigned in on defense. Remember Joey Porter complaining that the coaching staff had handcuffs on the defense?
Maybe when he gets burned a time or two with the aggressive style of play Tomlin will pull things back a bit. Maybe he won’t.
But for now, we’re just enjoying a look into the mind of Dick LeBeau.