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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dick LeBeau out as Steelers defensive coordinator

Saying that it was a mutual parting of ways, Dick LeBeau has resigned as Steelers defensive coordinator.

Knowing, however, that LeBeau wanted to return, I can only assume that after meeting with head coach Mike Tomlin over the past couple of days, LeBeau had a change of heart.

That's a shame.

In 13 seasons as the Steelers defensive coordinator - spanning two tenures - LeBeau's teams led the NFL in total defense five times. They were in the top 10 in 11 of those seasons, falling to 13th in 2013 and 18th in 2014.

Is that LeBeau's fault? Possibly, since he's the man in charge. But the body of work far outweighs the past two seasons, in my opinion, especially when you consider the Steelers were obviously in transition.

In fact, the Steelers have been to four Super Bowls in the 22 seasons I've covered the team, winning twice. All four trips were made with Dick LeBeau as the team's defensive coordinator.

Perhaps this move was made because the Steelers felt they couldn't deny linebackers coach Keith Butler - the heir apparent - any more jobs.

Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is a hot head coaching prospect and it's likely that Bruce Arians was going to come knocking about Butler again if Bowles departs.

If that's why this happened, that's too bad.

A Hall of Fame player, outstanding strategist and even better person, LeBeau will be missed.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good Luck Keith .... Those are some big shoes to fill

Phil said...

I am shocked and disappointed by this news. From the outside, it seemed that the defense's problems were the result of poor personnel than poor coaching. I am watching the Ravens/Pats playoff game and it is sickening to see Mosley and Jernigan outperform Shazier and Tuitt.

I wonder if LeBeau's situation is somewhat analogous to Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno: all three were elderly coaches whose performances declined (but were still good) at the end of their careers and they were reluctant to step away from their teams.

If Keith Butler takes over, he has some massive shoes to fill. Also, what will he change about the system he has coached the last 12 years?

Farewell, Coach Dad. Thanks for everything!

Phil said...

*and not poor coaching

Anonymous Brian said...

I'm a little shocked.

If they just promote Butler, is there that much difference?

Anonymous said...

Dale, I really doubt Bowles is the sole reason for it. Might have contributed, but that would be a dumb decision if it's made just because of that

adamg said...

Lebeau has probably forgotten more about defense than most of us will ever know. A hall of fame player and coach, I hope he decided to leave because perhaps the Steelers plan to go in a different direction with the defense. Tomlin came from a 4-3 defense background or maybe he and Colbert just felt the defense was too complex and they needed to get the young guys in sooner and contributing. If the latter, I'm not sure Butler is a shoo in since he subscribes to the same philosophy. Remember Fitchner was considered the heir apparent to Arians and that didn't happen.

Zeke R said...

I always thought Dick and Troy would walk off into the sunset together.. Dick's akalades speak for themselves, I did feel we were too predictable and that adjustments weren't being made accordingly. I know everyone respected and thought of him as a father figure but overall I think it was the right move. I wish him nothing but the best.

Anonymous said...

Lebeau's scheme is notorious for young players slowly gaining an understanding and an ability to play without thinking about where they need to be or what they need to do. Right now, in the current state of the defense, that scheme introduces young players too slowly. This year the Steelers got lucky - Keisel and Harrison came back and played at a high level. That isn't an option next year.

This move was necessary. The Steelers need a defensive coordinator who is better than Lebeau at integrating young players quickly. This aspect of coaching was not Lebeau's greatest strength, but right now it's the Steelers biggest need.

That's not to say Lebeau was bad at it, but his development schedule required time that the Steelers defense does not have. And a 77 year old isn't going to change the way he does his job, especially with so much success on his resume.

I would warn against assuming Butler is the same coach as Lebeau.

Mike said...

I agree with anonymous above. Lebeau succeeded, in some part, with complexity. He confused offenses. That just doesn't happen anymore. Offenses and good QB's can beat that. Simpler is winning now on D. Fast, powerful, pressure. Look at Seattle, Baltimore, Niners. THey didn't outsmart you, they just beat the crud out of you and made you do things you aren't able to do. We need more of that.

Joe Jones said...

Bowles obviously is a good candidate.
Not big on Butler.. What does that change?
I'd like someone proven, Rex Ryan?
I'd like to keep the 3-4.
I think Big Rex would be a very good pickup.

Joe Jones said...

You obviously have a short memory.
During the Joey P & Harrison prime years, we went right thru offensive lines. You just can't do that same strategy with Jones, Worilds and Silverback redux

Steve-O said...

Dick LeBeau spent what amounts to a lifetime in modern NFL years with the Steelers. I'm not saying he deserves this inglorious departure (he doesn't) but short of death or illness LeBeau wasn't leaving. Moving forward this is Tomlin's team, lock stock and barrel.

I guess we'll see if organizational change can breathe new life into this moderately talented defense. I personally think they are two drafts away from being dominant again.

Zeke R said...

Rex = distractions/circus. No thanks.

Dale Lolley said...

Just because Butler coached under LeBeau doesn't mean he would do things exactly the same.

Anonymous said...

To those who think a change from LeBeau will automatically be a bad one, check out what happened to the defense when LeBeau left for the Cincy head coach gig and Jim Haslett took over.

adamg said...

Dale, I'm not knocking the guy, but what credentials or accomplishments does Butler have that make him so indispensible?

Anonymous said...

To those who think a change from LeBeau will automatically be a bad one, check out what happened to the defense when LeBeau left for the Cincy head coach gig and Jim Haslett took over.

So, you're agreeing with those people?

Anonymous said...

Dale,

Nfl.com is reporting that the Steelers wanted Lebeau back and that his resignation came as a surprise.

What's going on?

ibygeorge said...

He is getting out just in time. This defense looks to be years away from a solid defense. The 4 "old and slow" that started and played most of the season will be gone and replaced with the unproven "young and quick". Plus there is problems in the secondary. Polamalu made his defense special and #43 can't be replaced.
I hope LeBeau lands at Arizona. They already have a good defense and he could then go out on top.

marc said...

Lebeau was obviously an all time great. Regardless of the circumstances, I think it was time for him to move on and a fresh perspective to the defense. It will be interesting to see if they stick with the 3-4.

Zeke R said...

Does Porter move into Butlers position?

George Siegel said...

I would think if Butleris promoted that Jerry Olsavsky would be the linebackers coach.

Dale Lolley said...

It was a surprise. LeBeau had said he wanted to return. The Steelers wanted him to return.

He must have had a change of heart after thinking about it. Polamalu and Taylor were two of his favorites. Might have decided that since they aren't coming back, he isn't either.

Olsavsky would likely oversee the LBs, with Porter working with the OLBs.

Anonymous said...

So which is it? In the article you say he was "forced out" yet in your last comment you say it was a surprise and that the Steelers wanted him back. What gives?

Anonymous said...

"So, you're agreeing with those people?"

So you didn't "check out what happened with the defense after LeBeau left and Haslett took over"?

Hint: If you did that you'd have your answer and you wouldn't have to ask that question.

Dale Lolley said...

Some people in the organization were surprised. That is true. Not everyone was privy to all the meetings. I'm hearing different things.

Anonymous said...

So you didn't "check out what happened with the defense after LeBeau left and Haslett took over"?

Hint: If you did that you'd have your answer and you wouldn't have to ask that question.


Um, it got progressively worse? What do I win?

Anonymous said...


"Um, it got progressively worse? What do I win?"

Um, then obviously you still didn't check out what happened with the defense after LeBeau left and Haslett took over.

Answer: You won nothing.

Thanks for playin'!

adamg said...

I found it odd that Lebeau told his hometown paper first. That sort of supports the theory that he might have changed his mind at some point.

Can't wait for you to flesh out the story for us Dale.

Anonymous said...

Lets see, points, yards, INTs, and sacks all got worse under Haslett. Not sure how it performed in your alternate universe, but it declined under his stead in the real. Nobody but Ron Cook, and maybe you, still burns a candle for Haslett. He was just a guy.

Anonymous said...

Let's see ...

LeBeau's last year as defensive coordinator before he left was 1996.

The following link says the Steelers defense was ranked 5th in 1996:
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/1996/opp.htm

The next 2 years under Haslett (via the same site)we have the defense ranked 11th and then ... UP ... to 7th.

That's not "progressively worse" unless it's in some "alternate universe" where people don't understand what "progressively worse" means.

"Nobody but you" would make such a remedial mistake.

See, the world didn't end because he was "just a guy" who filled in reasonably well for LeBeau.

Next time maybe research more and shoot your mouth off less?

Yeah ... you lose. Game over.

Anonymous said...

Yards per game was 273 in 96, LeBeau's last year. Grew to 294 Haslett's first year, then 310, then 305. Points went from 257 LeBeau's last year to 307, 303, then 320 under Haslett. Sacks went from 51 under LeBeau to 48, 41, 39 under Haslett. INTs went from 23 under LeBeau to 20, 16, 14 under Haslett. Is that progressively worse, or a seamless transition/continuation of excellence?

Patrick said...

wade phillips is more intriguing to me than Keith Butler, to be perfectly honest.

Anonymous said...

Wade Phillips is also really old and has been bounced from multiple jobs. I think he hasn't been in the NFL for two seasons now or more.

marc said...

I'm assuming butler would be one pissed dude if they brought in someone else for DC. also assuming they stay with 3-4 considering current personnel and continuity.

my initial thought was that defensive leaders this season would be predominantly 4-3 teams. boy, was I wrong. there were 14 teams that qualified as top 10 in either pts/game or yards/game. of those 14, 8 were 3-4 defenses.

imo, the biggest need for this team is at CB. other positions have established players and/or youth with potential. I don't see CB that way right now.

Rick said...

Tomlin & Colbert failed to provide the defense with the correct personnel -poor drafting. The Post Gazette season long pointed to the lack of quality personnel on the defense. Tomlin passes the blame for the defense problems to Lebeau. Tomlin and Colbert are to blame for the defense shortcomings not Lebeau. Tomlin and Colbert's poor evaluation of personnel is evidenced by letting Harrison and Kiesel go while believing their draft personnel were able to replace and improve upon the two let go. Soon they found their replacements were not able to perform at the level of Silverback and the Beard and not only brought them back but found their performance superior to their so called replacements. Lebeau is the fall guy for Tomlin's & Colbert's mistakes. Did I mention their poor evaluation of their offensive coordinator who became coach of the year? By Rick