Dick LeBeau’s secret to turning Troy Polamalu into a Hall of Famer? Let your great players be great.
That’s how he described it – as only he can – in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio Wednesday evening.
“Yeah, I guided him all right,” LeBeau said. “I stayed the hell out of his way and let him go out and play football.”
LeBeau also credited his zone blitz scheme that perfectly complimented Polamalu’s skillset. The chaos created by his pressure packages suited Polamalu’s bouncing, unpredictable style.
“Troy had the ability to go from Point A to Point B probably as quickly as any man I’ve ever seen. And he played at about 208 pounds, so there was a pretty good sized man moving as quick as anybody I’ve ever seen. And it confused the offenses, because you get daily practice, game experience, you’re used to seeing defenses react and this guy would be there and be there at a certain time phase. And Troy was always just about three steps quicker and faster, and there quicker to disrupt whatever the pattern of the play was.”
It’s worth remembering, because I honestly forgot, LeBeau wasn’t Polamalu’s defensive coordinator for his rookie season in 2003. LeBeau was serving as an assistant in Buffalo, circling back to Pittsburgh as DC in ’04. Polamalu’s game transformed after a difficult rookie season and by career’s end, he racked up nearly 800 tackles, 32 tackles, 14 forced fumbles, and 12 sacks. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, and 2010 Defensive Player of the Year.
Hard to imagine a player and coach working as well together as those two guys. Even their personalities were similar; deeply religious, soft-spoken people who let their work do all the talking.
LeBeau called Polamalu the “best safety that’s ever played,” incredibly high – if not a little biased – praise from a man whose been around football all his life. But it’s recognition that’s well-earned and who are any of us to argue with one of football’s Godfathers.