There isn\’t much that Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau hasn\’t seen as he enters his 55th year in the NFL, so with more and more teams using the read-option and up-tempo style offenses, the Hall of Famer is already working on ways to defend it.
During a breakfast media session for AFC coaches at the NFL owners\’ meetings, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin offered up his own thoughts on the read-option.
“I think the read-option is the flavor of the month,” Tomlin said. “We\’ll see whether it\’s the flavor of the year. A few years ago, people were talking wildly about the Wildcat. It\’s less of a discussion now.
“I think there are coaches in rooms preparing themselves to defend it, there are coaches in rooms also preparing to run it. I think it\’s going to sort out on the grass.”
Tomlin would go on to say that sooner or later; organizations will get tired of their quarterbacks getting hit, as that is something they must endure when running that style of offense.
In an interview with Jim Corbett of the USA Today, LeBeau took a more humble approach when asked about stopping the read-option.
“I don\’t know that anybody totally knows the secret because they haven\’t stopped it,” LeBeau said. “When you\’ve got those great read-option quarterbacks, you can\’t make a mistake. It puts more pressure on your defense to be right. You can\’t afford to surrender the big play. Make them go the hard way.”
One of the things that LeBeau is doing different his year is shorten the defensive terminology used via short keywords in an effort to quickly communicate the defense he wants to his players. Over the years, especially against up-tempo offenses, the defense has had their share of problems of getting the call communicated from inside linebackers Larry Foote and James Farrior to the rest of the defense.
Corbett reports that LeBeau also told him the Steelers offense is running their no-huddle plays early in training camp practices in an effort to give his defense some quality work against it, so that certainly is encouraging.
The Steelers defense did a good job in defending the read-option last year in their win over the Washington Redskins, and they could very well face that style of offense in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans. Outside of the Titans and possibly the New York Jets in Week 6, though, the defense doesn\’t figure to face the read-option much in 2013.
As far as up-tempo offenses go, that\’s a different story, as we all know New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will not hesitate to get into a hurry-up mode if he catches a defense with the wrong personnel grouping on the field. In addition to the Patriots, several other teams on the Steelers schedule figure to use an up-tempo offense as well, so the defense has to be ready for it at all times during the season.
“You need to practice that because the up-tempo is another tool offenses have now to pressure defenses,” LeBeau said.