Today is Part Four in our series where we “grade the 2014 Steelers.” Part Three was Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley.
Today we move to the other side of the ball where next year we are likely to see many different faces and some in new places.
Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau. Let me get right to the point; I hope 2014 was LeBeau’s last coaching the Steelers defense. I don’t dislike Dick LeBeau, I just believe in the theory that a man can spend too much time in the same coaching position.
LeBeau was hired as the DC in 2004. Next to him, the longest-serving defensive coordinator in the NFL is Dom Capers in Green Bay who was hired in 2009.
I’m going to put that aside though and focus on the 2014 season which saw LeBeau’s defense ride a roller coaster of good and bad play.
Early on, the run defense was a sieve allowing teams like Cleveland to run on them at will. By mid-season, the run defense stiffened and forced teams to be more one-dimensional which is always LeBeau’s goal entering any game.
Injuries to Ike Taylor, rookie Ryan Shazier, Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel and Jarvis Jones forced LeBeau to do some seriously scrambling and in my opinion forced him to make changes he might otherwise would have passed on.
The loss of Shazier gave us more Sean Spence and Vince Williams who both played admirably. The loss of Keisel and horrible play of Cam Thomas finally gave us rookie Stephon Tuitt who grew by leaps and bounds the last half of the season.
Still, the same things that have always haunted the Dick LeBeau 3-4 defense were back. The team struggled with the zone blocking scheme which then exposed the secondary in play-action. They also proved, especially in the playoff loss to Baltimore that they just couldn’t cover for any extended period of time.
Lastly, as again the playoff loss proved, the defense couldn’t cover even an average tight end to save its’ life. This has been an issue for several years and seems to get worse.
The pass rush was never consistent and when your best rusher is 37-year old James Harrison you’ve got serious problems.
I commend LeBeau and his assistants for pulling together a secondary that saw Cortez Allen benched and injuries hamper it but in the end it was exposed. Safety Mike Mitchell never seemed to pick up the defense and if he did, he always out of position and taking poor angles.
LeBeau has been a great mentor to many Steelers and he ha put together some great defensive teams but his time to move on has come.
Final Grade: C
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad and the website @SCBlitz. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/steelcityblitz and on Fancred.com. You can hear him weekly during the season on game day on the Trib-Live Radio Steelers Pre-Game