Steelers Dick LeBeau looks to improve on 16-2 mark against rookie quarterbacks in 2013

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is 16-2 against rookie passers since taking over in 2004. He took his second loss to a rookie last year - and the first in a game in which the Steelers starters played - when Brandon Weeden led Cleveland to a shocking win in Week 12. They may have two rookie passers to contend with in 2013, Buffalo's E.J. Manuel and New York's Geno Smith.

It's a fun running stat to rattle off - Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is 16-2 against rookie quarterbacks since assuming the Steelers' defensive coordinator position in 2004.

The part that isn't so fun is the fact LeBeau picked up that second loss to Cleveland's Brandon Weeden in Week 12 last year. That was also only the second loss to Cleveland in the 18 games LeBeau has gone against Cleveland since returning to the Steelers in 2004.

A mere coincidence, but an irritating blemish on an otherwise spectacular track record - both against another team and against rookie passers.

Not that the Steelers' 20-14 loss at Cleveland could pinned on their defense. The Steelers turned the ball over a shocking eight times (the most by the Steelers in 23 years) and went 1-for-9 on third downs in the loss. Their defense held Weeden to a middling performance, 17-of-26 for 158 yards, and a touchdown and a pick. Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons returned that interception for a touchdown.

But just like how Troy Smith's win over the Steelers in a meaningless Week 17 game in 2007 counts, so does Weeden's win - the first rookie quarterback to defeat LeBeau when the Steelers played their starters. Granted, two of the running backs responsible for four of their seven fumbles (five of their eight total fumbles were lost) are no longer on the team, and neither is the quarterback who threw three interceptions (Charlie Batch), but their fingerprints are all over what's arguably the worst loss in the Mike Tomlin Era.

The Steelers and LeBeau avenged the defeat by taking down Cleveland's Thad Lewis in Week 17, but Lewis had a fairly impressive outing - 22-for-32, 204 yards a touchdown and an interception.

While it's impossible to tell in June which teams will have rookies starting at quarterback, there's a reasonable possibility the Steelers could face rookie quarterbacks against the Jets in Week 6 (Geno Smith) and the Bills in Week 10 (E.J. Manuel).

At the same time, both Smith and Manuel will have to beat out veterans for the starting jobs - but possibly could simply inherit the jobs from veterans Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kolb.

On paper, it doesn't seem either task is out of the realm of possibility, to put it mildly.

If it doesn't happen, though, and if no other team has a rookie starting by that point, it would be the first year since 2009 they wouldn't have faced a rookie passer. The Steelers were 9-7 that year, missing the playoffs after winning Super Bowl XLIII the previous year.


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