The man who can recite “The Night Before Christmas” by heart, and did so to his players before every Christmas, was as beloved to players as the Steelers are to their fan base.
“Coach Dad”, as players called Dick LeBeau, will be making his return to Heinz Field for the first time since he left, giving way to Keith Butler to take over the defensive coordinator duties.
While most thought, and probably hoped, LeBeau would call it a career and move on to his life’s work, he felt that he wasn’t done coaching, and the Tennessee Titans became his new home under head coach Mike Mularkey. LeBeau has his signature 3-4 zone blitzing defense ready to roll against a struggling Pittsburgh offense and, while players are looking forward to seeing their old coach, this reunion won’t be all hugs and handshakes.
LeBeau would love to come into his old stomping grounds and end the Steelers’ 4-game winning streak on prime time TV. Likewise, the Steelers want to prove they’re doing just fine without LeBeau at the helm.
We will call this just a little added motivation heading into Thursday Night Football.
Time to check in on the Black-and-gold news outside the walls of BTSC:
Three years have passed since Dick LeBeau last coached the Steelers’ defense, but his influence remains in his absence.
“If you spend one, two, three or four years with him, I like to think you grew up with him,” said defensive end Cam Heyward, who played four seasons for LeBeau. “I think a lot of our characteristics are Dick LeBeau-driven. … Our goals and stuff are still Coach LeBeau's and the way he wanted it because our coaches were under him. I think his imprint is a lasting imprint.”
That's why Heyward expects Thursday to be “weird” when LeBeau returns to Heinz Field as assistant head coach of the Tennessee Titans. This will be LeBeau's first matchup with the Steelers since he joined the Titans’ defensive staff in 2015.
LeBeau, 80, coached the Steelers for 16 seasons in two stints. The second lasted from 2004 until he resigned as defensive coordinator after the '14 season.
“I still miss him saying: ‘What's up Buckeye? How are you doing?' ” Heyward said Monday. “His Christmas night tale that he would tell us. There are so many stories I have that I'll cherish. But this isn't a funeral or anything. Coach LeBeau is going to be out there trying to kick our (butt), so we have to be ready.”
Coach Mike Tomlin, who had LeBeau on his staff for eight seasons, agreed.
“As awesome as it will be to see Dick on a personal note, he's not the kind of guy you want to see in a headset on the other sideline,” Tomlin said.
Rookie third-round pick Cameron Sutton said Monday he had not yet been given any indication from coaches or management about when or if he would be activated off of injured reserve. The cornerback must be activated by early next week or, by NFL rule, he’s out for the season.
During the August 31st preseason finale, Sutton aggravated a hamstring injury that plagued him during training camp and he was placed on IR. He began practicing with the Steelers the week before the team's bye.
The Steelers have six cornerbacks on their 53-man roster and haven't had to make any in-season IR moves at any position that would have cleared roster space. Asked on Monday how Haden's injury would impact the team's decision with Sutton, Tomlin said: “It doesn't.”
The Colts want to know why Steelers linebacker Stephon Tuitt wasn’t penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit that has quarterback Jacoby Brissett in concussion protocol.
The Colts will send the play — a 3-yard run by Brissett — to the NFL, coach Chuck Pagano said, via Kevin Bowen of 1070 The Fan.
Tuitt can expect a fine despite referee Clete Blakeman’s crew not throwing a flag. Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier had Brissett in the grasp when Tuitt dove over the pile and hit the Colts quarterback in the head.
Brissett immediately grabbed the back of his head. He did not miss a play but developed concussion symptoms after the game and was placed in concussion protocol.