Dick LeBeau is 82 years old. He has been out of the NFL since the end of the 2017 season after wrapping up a three-year stint with the Tennessee Titans as their defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, a short run in which he did find some success as an encore to his very accomplished 11-year run as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator.
In spite of the fact that he is very much now enjoying his retirement after spending more than six decades in football—he was part of Ohio State’s 1957 national championship team in college before being a 1959 fifth-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, preceding a Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Lions—he still finds the time to tune in to what is going on in the game.
And he knows very well that this is a unique offseason for the NFL and his coaching contemporaries. There is a pandemic going around, and that has meant that coaches have not had face-to-face access with their players all year. But he’s been through lockouts before, like in 2011. He was a defensive backs coach during the strike-shortened season in the early 1980s. He’s been through a lot of scenarios.
And he actually said that he would appreciate the challenge of this offseason, as discussed during a radio interview with SiriusXM on Wednesday.
“They’re going to have to create some new scenarios, but coaches are pretty innovative”, he said when asked about the unique challenges this year present. “I would look forward to this opportunity, because one of the advantages of being experienced, and if you’ve compiled a number of years in your career in a particular endeavor, you’ve been there, and you’ve been in a lot of different situations, and it doesn’t scare you to take on a new challenge”.
“It would really play into my wheelhouse, where I knew everything about our defense”, he went on. “I knew the best way to teach it. I knew the shortcuts. They’re going to have to adjust from the typical way of doing things, but I have no doubt that the coaches will be talented enough to get that done”.
LeBeau’s Steelers defenses were known for being rather complex, but his units were typically so experienced that they were able to run it often seamlessly, and the more detail you know, the easier it is to run.
With a unit like, say, the 2010 team, which was littered with experienced players like your Casey Hamptons, your James Harrisons, your Troy Polamalus, your Lawrence Timmonses, I believe LeBeau when he says that he would have welcomed the challenge of getting his defense ready under this set of circumstances, and believe he would have succeeded in making it a top-flight unit, a strength for the team.