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Old 12-20-2009, 09:57 PM   #1
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Default Townsend LeBeau, defense are sticking by each other

Townsend LeBeau, defense are sticking by each other
Sunday, December 20, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Steelers linebacker James Farrior said something the other day that clearly agitated defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

"I hope we're not running him off by the way we're playing."

You know, to retirement.

"I would hate to see him go out like this," Farrior said, shaking his head.

LeBeau didn't want to hear it.

"The last thing I want the players to think is that I'm going to turn tail and run away just because the going gets a little rough," he said. "We preach all the time about sticking together and fighting through adversity. How would it look if I walked away now? I'm not going to run away from those guys. I'm going to stay right here and fight with them."

That's great news on an otherwise bleak December morning with winter quickly approaching and the Steelers lugging around a five-game losing streak that has reduced their playoff chances to slim and none.

The news that LeBeau will be back in 2010 for his 52nd NFL season -- providing, of course, the Rooneys and coach Mike Tomlin sign off on it, which seems like a given -- will be greeted with big smiles in the locker room today before the team plays the Green Bay Packers at Heinz Field.

Asking LeBeau about his plans was a fair question -- and not just because he will turn 73 at the start of next season.

This has been a tough year for the man off of the field. His mother, Beulah, died at 96 in September after complications from a fall. She was his best friend and biggest fan and knew he was a finalist for the Hall of Fame, but, sadly, didn't live enough for him to get the official word, which won't come until the day before Super Bowl XLIV in February. He seems like a lock to make it.

It also has been a difficult year for LeBeau on the field. At times, his proud defense has been almost unrecognizable. A lot of people put much of the blame for the Steelers' 6-7 predicament on the offense and the special teams. I put most of it on the defense for its five fourth-quarter collapses.

The players say LeBeau hasn't changed, that he's the same man now that he was last season when the Steelers were on their way to a second Super Bowl championship in four years.

"He tells us every morning, 'It's a great day to be alive,' " Farrior said.

"He says he gets up every day and gives thanks that he can come to work and be with us because we're family to him," cornerback Deshea Townsend said.

"He hugs us, tells us he loves us and says, 'OK, men, let's get to work and get better,' " safety Ryan Clark added.

Predictably, LeBeau has defended his players all season, pointing out the defense still ranks No. 4 in the NFL. "We're not that far from being a damn good defense and these guys are still fighting to be that," he said. But he did acknowledge, "We've given up too many big plays and we haven't forced enough turnovers." And this, the bottom line: "We haven't won enough games. I wouldn't care where we were ranked if we were 13-0."

The players say the blame belongs on them for their fourth-quarter failures. I'm right there with them on that. It's not as if LeBeau took stupid pills during the summer or that the game has passed him by. Good football still comes down to execution more than Xs and Os. That's why I'm not among the legion of people who are screaming for offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and special-teams coach Bob Ligashesky to be fired as soon as the season ends. The Steelers need a few better players, not better coaches.

"We know how this defense is supposed to be run," Townsend said. "It's not the plan that's been the problem. It's us."

"I hate what's been happening to us in the fourth quarter being a reflection on [LeBeau]," Clark said. "It's hard to walk to the sideline and look him in the eye sometimes. After never having a coach care about you as much as he does, you feel like you're letting him down."

It's fair to think LeBeau will get the problems corrected. A healthy Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith will be a huge lift next season. There also could be more than a few new players. Clark, Townsend and nose tackle Casey Hampton will be free agents after the season. Cornerback William Gay has not played well. Farrior will turn 35 next month.

Still, this Steelers' defense seems certain to reunite again next summer, although it might not be in Latrobe.

It will be in Canton, Ohio.

I've never known a coach who was more revered by his players than LeBeau. "After him, I don't want to play for anybody else," Smith has said. "If he tells us to jump off a cliff, I believe we would do it." The players have honored LeBeau by wearing his replica jersey from his terrific playing days with the Detroit Lions, by giving him a gold-and-silver Rolex watch on his 70th birthday and by standing as a group in a freezing rain before a game last season when he was honored for his 50 years in the NFL. There's no way they will miss seeing him inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"That will be part of the negotiation process for my next contract. I need that day off," Townsend said, grinning.

"I don't know if I'll be in training camp with this team or another team, but I'm going to be there for that for sure," Clark said. "They can fine me, I don't care."

You think maybe LeBeau has lost a little off his fastball after all of these years?

I don't think he's lost anything.
Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com. More articles by this author

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09354...#ixzz0aHvlXwEZ
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: Townsend LeBeau, defense are sticking by each other

I don't mind them sticking by each other, I just wish our DB's could stick by the WR's they're covering.
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Townsend LeBeau, defense are sticking by each other

Originally Posted by TheWarDen86 View Post
I don't mind them sticking by each other, I just wish our DB's could stick by the WR's they're covering.
perfectly said
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