Thursday night games aren’t fun for a football team. You’re tired, physically and mentally. You’re under prepared, a weeks worth of information squeezed into three days. So it helps to play a familiar face. But when that face is Dick LeBeau, the road really isn’t any easier.
In today’s press conference, Mike Tomlin talked about getting to play against LeBeau and the Tennessee Titans’ defense.
“Man, we’re playing Dick LeBeau. As awesome as it will be to see Dick on a personal note, he’s not the type of guy you want to see on a headset on the other sideline. In the midst of their four game run is quintessential Dick LeBeau. They’re taking the ball away. They’re minimizing run game. They’re making the explosion and splash plays that is the signature of their ball. It’s a significant reason why they’re 6-3 and division leaders.”
Over that four game winning streak, the Titans have only allowed an offense to score more than 20 points once, a 36-22 win over the Indianapolis Colts a month ago. While the Cincinnati Bengals moved the ball on them yesterday afternoon, the Titans shut them down on third down, holding Andy Dalton and company to go just 1-10. They also forced a pair of fumbles and gave up just seven points after halftime.
Two weeks ago, they picked off Joe Flacco twice and caused another fumble in a victory. Tomlin praised LeBeau staying true to his core principles but being open enough to do whatever is best for his defense to succeed.
“One of the things I learned about Dick is that if you give him red paint, he’s going to paint the barn red. It’s one of his analogies. He’s always been sharp and flexible enough to meet the needs of the variables, meaning the people he has and the people he’s playing against.”
Tomlin cited an example of that flexibility from yesterday’s game.
“It was interesting to watch their game against the Bengals. They’re historically not a heavy man-to-man team. They came out and played man-to-man. They played two-on-one on AJ Green, everyone else played man, they won all the possession downs. They won the game. That’s Dick LeBeau.”
At least the Steelers have experience on their side. The key players,, Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, and Antonio Brown all know LeBeau well. That should at least limit the surprises. We’ll bring you a full scouting report later in the week but in the meantime, just turn on a Steelers’ game from five years ago. It’ll probably look the same.