Friday, January 26, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
MOBILE, Ala. -- This is getting a little ridiculous for Dick LeBeau.
It is one thing to work for a head coach who was in high school when LeBeau was finishing his sterling National Football League playing career.
Dick LeBeau is Very impressed with new head coach Mike Tomlin
But when the new head coach is half your age?
When he was born the same year you retired as a player in 1972?
"Life takes some funny turns," LeBeau said, wearing a bemused look.
LeBeau, who will return as the Steelers' defensive coordinator, was 20 years older than his former boss, Bill Cowher. He was still playing at Ohio State when Cowher was born in 1957.
But LeBeau, 69, is a little more than twice the age of the Steelers' new coach, Mike Tomlin, who is 34. He likely has ripped more defensive schemes from a playbook than Tomlin has devised in six previous seasons of coaching in the NFL.
None of that, though, appears to bother LeBeau, a former NFL head coach himself.
"I'm very impressed with him," LeBeau said. "He seemed like a very intelligent man who knows what he wants to do. I was impressed with his poise and his confidence."
One of Tomlin's first priorities as the Steelers' coach was to retain LeBeau, who will be 70 in September, to run the defense, an indication he is not ready to abandon the 3-4 defense the Steelers have played since Cowher became coach in 1992.
When he decided to retain all but one of the defensive assistant coaches -- only secondary coach Darren Perry will not be brought back -- Tomlin sent another strong signal that he is not ready to switch to the type of defense he learned under Tony Dungy at Tampa Bay and employed last year as defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings.
Tomlin is a disciple of Dungy's cover-2 defense, also known as the Tampa-2, a scheme that lacks the amount of fire-zone blitzes and single coverages favored by LeBeau. But when asked if he is married to that approach, Tomlin said, "I'm married to being a fundamentalist.
"I had to make adjustments to what I envisioned my package being when I went to Minnesota to fit the personnel. That's just part of coaching. I'm married to an approach to the game. It's more about how you do what you do, as opposed to specifically what you do. Yes, it has to be sound. But it's the quality of the detail, the belief in the men who not only install it but the guys who do it."
Even Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli, who was the defensive line coach in Tampa Bay when Tomlin was the secondary coach, said his former co-worker would have no problem using a 3-4 defense with the Steelers.
"He's a teacher," Marinelli said. "It's not what you're doing -- it's how you're doing it."
All that is encouraging news to LeBeau, the father of the fire-zone blitz.
"They've been drafting here for 15 years for the 3-4 defense, so, obviously, we're put together to play the 3-4," LeBeau said during a break in practice sessions at the Senior Bowl. "I don't see us, philosophically, at odds at all.