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Ti­tans’ LeBeau re­turn­ing to Pitts­burgh

The Citizens' Voice - - National Football League - BY TERESA M. WALKER

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Dick LeBeau is more than happy to talk about the chal­lenge of de­fend­ing Ben Roeth­lis­berger and the high-pow­ered Steel­ers.

The 80-year-old coach­ing leg­end will even joke about never hav­ing been to the vis­i­tors’ locker room at Heinz Field be­fore.

The emo­tions of re­turn­ing to Pitts­burgh to coach against the Steel­ers (7-2) where he spent 16 sea­sons over two stints? Nope. “I’m try­ing not to think at all about any­thing ex­cept the Ti­tans get­ting ready to play a big foot­ball game,” LeBeau said Tues­day.

“I think both teams have won four in a row. It’s go­ing to re­ally be a great chal­lenge for us, and we’re look­ing for­ward to it.”

Not for the Ten­nessee de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor who’s re­turn­ing to Pitts­burgh for the first time since he re­signed as Steel­ers de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in Jan­uary 2015. That was af­ter his sec­ond stop from 2004 to 2014 where the Steel­ers won two Su­per Bowls with LeBeau as co­or­di­na­tor.

Ti­tans line­backer Brian Orakpo said he’s pretty sure this re­turn trip will be emo­tional for LeBeau.

“He won’t tell us that, and he won’t tell you guys that,” Orakpo said. “I’m pretty sure this one means a lot to him. I think it’s his first time play­ing there since he’s been gone ... We want this one for him.”

Many of the Steel­ers are look­ing for­ward to see­ing LeBeau again — per­son­ally.

“He’s not the type of guy you want to see in a head­set on the other side­line,” Pitts­burgh coach Mike Tom­lin said.

“In the midst of their four-game run, it is quin­tes­sen­tial run. They are tak­ing the ball away. They are min­i­miz­ing the run game. They are mak­ing the ex­plo­sion and splash plays that is a sig­na­ture of his ball. That is a sig­nif­i­cant rea­son why they are 6-3 and di­vi­sion lead­ers.”

Kevin But­ler re­placed LeBeau as co­or­di­na­tor and re­mains good friends with LeBeau. But­ler noted the Steel­ers thought they might see the Ti­tans in the play­offs last sea­son ex­cept the Ti­tans didn’t qual­ify.

See­ing LeBeau on the op­po­site side­line will be awk­ward in a re­la­tion­ship so com­pet­i­tive But­ler says he makes LeBeau putt out when they play golf to­gether.

And yes, the Steel­ers still use some of what LeBeau in­stalled as co­or­di­na­tor. How much? But­ler isn’t say­ing.

“We’d be fools not to do what we did be­fore we were suc­cess­ful,” But­ler said. “We’re top five in the league in de­fense for a long time when he was a co­or­di­na­tor, so it would be fool­ish for us not to use some of the same stuff he used. Some­times peo­ple catch up with it so you kind of have to tweak it here and there.”

Roeth­lis­berger is ex­pect­ing LeBeau to throw ev­ery­thing at him, along with some­thing the Steel­ers quar­ter­back doesn’t know.

Roeth­lis­berger called LeBeau prob­a­bly one of the best de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors and even bet­ter peo­ple he’s ever met.

“It was so much fun to be on his team and watch what he did to other quar­ter­backs,” Roeth­lis­berger said. “I don’t think it’s go­ing to be as much fun go­ing against him.”

LeBeau isn’t buy­ing into Roeth­lis­berger’s flat­tery.

“To show him some­thing he’s never seen be­fore, I think that’s an im­pos­si­bil­ity,” LeBeau said. “But we’ll try to dis­guise and try to make him read us af­ter the snap. He’s a great di­ag­nos­ti­cian. He re­ally can take a look at you and find out where you’re go­ing, and it’s part of the rea­son he’s been so suc­cess­ful.”

Of course, LeBeau hasn’t changed much of how he calls a de­fense in Ten­nessee. Ti­tans coach Mike Mu­larkey says LeBeau is pretty con­fi­dent in what he’s do­ing, es­pe­cially af­ter the suc­cess he’s had in his ca­reer.

“There’s no rea­son to rein­vent the wheel,” Mu­larkey said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Ti­tans de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dick LeBeau won two Su­per Bowls in the same role with the Steel­ers.

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