Steelers' defense presents 'Coach Dad' a timely performance against the Browns
D-lightful birthday giftWe love the guy to death. -- James Farrior, on Dick LeBeau''
Monday, September 10, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CLEVELAND -- Dick LeBeau really liked the birthday presents his defensive players gave him Saturday night at a team meeting at the hotel. But he might have liked the one he received on his 70th birthday better -- a near-flawless performance by the Steelers' defense.
It was difficult to tell which was more shiny and spectacular-looking yesterday after the Steelers beat up on the Cleveland Browns, 34-7 -- the execution of the defense, which produced six sacks, two interceptions and recovered three fumbles; or the gold-and-silver Rolex watch LeBeau wore on his left wrist as he stood in a corner of the Steelers' locker room.
"It doesn't belong on me," LeBeau said of the watch, presented to him by his defensive players. "Nonetheless, I'm not turning it in."
Nor is LeBeau going to concede the defensive performance should perhaps carry an asterisk, signifying it was turned in against the Browns who, despite a number of offseason moves and top draft choices, still look like, well, the Browns.
The Steelers started from the first defensive series, when defensive end Aaron Smith posted a sack from a new LeBeau wrinkle that included four down linemen in the dime defense, and never really stopped until cornerback Ike Taylor intercepted a Derek Anderson pass in the fourth quarter.
"I think we did a good job of making them look bad," said inside linebacker James Farrior, who had a sack and forced a fumble. "It's kind of tough when a lot of different guys are coming at you."
Indeed, LeBeau had so many different players collapsing the pocket that even Taylor, who rarely blitzes, managed one of the six sacks. By the end of the game, the only thing Anderson and starting quarterback Charlie Frye managed to accomplish was getting most of the 73,089 in attendance to chant for rookie quarterback Brady Quinn, one of the Browns' No. 1 draft choices.
"We were flying around, stopping the run, hitting them, making them one-dimensional," inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "But that's the question -- you never know early in the season if we're that good or they looked that bad. Five weeks from now, we'll probably know the answer."
To be sure, the Browns could do little right against the Steelers' defense. Frye completed 4 of 10 passes for 34 yards, was sacked four times and threw one interception before he was replaced.
Running back Jamal Lewis, who was signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Baltimore Ravens, didn't have a run longer than 7 yards and finished with 35 yards on 11 carries.
That extended the Steelers' streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 26 games in a row, counting playoffs.
What's more, the Browns' only touchdown -- a 1-yard pass from Anderson to fullback Lawrence Vickers -- came just six plays after Farrior dropped an interception that hit him right in the stomach.
"I don't know if we baffled them or not," outside linebacker Clark Haggans said. "I know we just executed all the calls coach LeBeau made. The way he was calling the game, if coach LeBeau said run to the top of the stadium and put up a Steelers flag, we were going to do that."
Such is the love and respect the defensive players have for the man they affectionately refer to as "Coach Dad."
That was the name that was written on the cake that all the players and coaches presented to LeBeau at a team meeting the night before the game. They also presented him with a framed poster of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," the poem LeBeau recites by memory to the players every year around Christmas. All the players autographed the poster.
When the defensive players had LeBeau alone, they presented him with the Rolex watch they all chipped in to purchase.
"He's a special man," defensive end Aaron Smith said.
"It was a good night," Farrior said. "We love the guy to death."
And it was probably a better afternoon for LeBeau, who turned down the final present he was offered after the victory -- the game ball the players presented to coach Mike Tomlin for winning his NFL debut.
"I tried to give it to Dick LeBeau for his birthday, but he wouldn't take it," Tomlin said. "I guess I'm taking it home."
LeBeau already received his gift.
First published on September 10, 2007 at 12:00 am