*Grabs the mic as it comes from the ceiling.* Ladies and Gentlemen!! In this corner we have those that believe Steelers’ Defensive Coordinator can do no wrong and is being blamed for defensive lapses only because of poor personnel.
In the other corner we have the fans who believe LeBeau’s system has grown old, tired and predictable and that it’s time for change.
*Releases the mic and says “Let’s get it on!“*
For me personally this battle is as close to a moot point as one could be because Dick LeBeau will only leave when Dick LeBeau is ready. The Rooney’s will not want to look like bad guys kicking the old man to the street so he’s there are long as he wants to be in my opinion.
This doesn’t mean I will stop the debate however.
I understand the pro-DLB people who say he hasn’t suddenly forgotten to coach. I agree with that 100% and I also understand the personnel isn’t what it once was either so I can take those things into consideration.
The problem is that the style of 3-4 defense DLB is running requires top of the line personnel and this team doesn’t have it. It’s old, slow and inexperienced in too many places.
“Tackling the ball” as DLB has his secondary do is no longer effective in the game of professional football today. The offense already has too many advantages and allowing guys to continuously catch 8 to 10 yards outs and hooks because our defensive backs are so far off just doesn’t fly anymore.
Why are the DBs so far off in the first place you ask? Because the defense is designed to bring pressure which means the secondary doesn’t have to cover as long. When you don’t get pressure, you force guys to cover who aren’t used to covering for so long.
The result? The defense gives up big plays and the Steelers have given up tons of them this season.
In order to counter that problem, DLB has chosen to blitz much less. This means he has opted for more guys in coverage. The result hasn’t changed much unfortunately. My feeling is that you need to take risks and if you’re going down then go down swinging.
Bring six or bring seven and force the quarterback to make a much quicker decision than what we are forcing him to do now. Doing this might even force the offense to stay away from these deep throws off five and seven-step drops that are killing us.
One of the other arguments against DLB leaving is that nothing will change if he does. This assumes that linebackers’ coach Keith Butler will be his replacement. I couldn’t disagree more with this sentiment.
How do we know that Butler wouldn’t change things significantly despite staying with the 3-4? Perhaps he would require more of the cornerbacks and perhaps he would bring new packages of blitzes. Just because he has coached with DLB for many season doesn’t automatically make him a clone.
Supporters want to constantly throw “number one rankings” out to provide evidence for DLB and they like to use the players love and respect for him as well.
If you haven’t noticed, the NFL has changed. This is no longer the 1970’s and frankly, it’s no longer the 2000’s either. Defensive rankings mean nothing if you aren’t creating turnovers and you aren’t getting to the quarterback.
This team hasn’t been able to do either consistently for three years running.
I like and respect everything that Dick LeBeau has done for the Steelers and for the game of professional football but that doesn’t mean I can’t be critical. The time is perfect for a change with this team going nowhere for the second straight year.
And to think I haven’t even mentioned the fourth quarter failures yet either…. *Ding! This round is over.*
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 630pm ET talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.