Former Steelers DC Dick Lebeau on Mt. Rushmore of Defensive Coaches

Noah Strackbein

Dick LeBeau built some of the best defenses of his generation on Pittsburgh Steelers, but his call to fame came throughout his entire NFL coaching career.

The inventor of the zone blitz made his way into the league in 1973 as a special teams coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles and spent time with six clubs on his way to a Hall of Fame induction in 2010.

44 years later, LeBeau finished his career as one of the masterminds of the NFL, a two-time Super Bowl champion, and with his place in the Mt. Rushmore of Defensive Coaches.

All49ers' publisher Grant Cohn collected his names to place on the beloved mountain. As the third-ranked coach on the list, LeBeau joins Jerry Williams, Bud Carson, and Bill Belichick as Cohn's four innovators of defensive football.

"Before [LeBeau], when defenses blitzed, they played man-to-man coverage. And [Bill] Walsh knew how to beat those basic blitzes," Cohn wrote. "He used 'hot routes,' meaning one receiver changed his route to a shorter one so the quarterback would have a quick outlet to beat the blitz. And that short throw often led to a long gain against man-to-man coverage, because that wide receiver had to beat just one guy.

"LeBeau invented the zone blitz to counter the hot route. He anticipated where the hot route would be if he blitzed, then dropped defensive linemen into the area where the hot route would go, which negated the hot route entirely. No defense had done this blitz before, and it gave the West Coast Offense fits."

LeBeau sparked change in the NFL long before joining the Steelers for his final 10-year stint as defensive coordinator in 2004. Winning two Super Bowls and coaching two Defensive Player of the Year winners (James Harrison - 2008, Troy Polamalu - 2010), LeBeau implemented himself into Pittsburgh history.

Now, he sits in one of the most recognizable monuments in sports debate history—a place he rightfully deserves. 

Noah Strackbein is a Senior Writer with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.


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