Steelers do LeBeau proud

When you watch this Game of the Week, pay particular attention to Troy Polamalu's interception. It is a marvelous play. The Pittsburgh safety fully extendeds to pull down Tony Romo's pass and raise his league-leading interception total to seven.

But it doesn't end there.

The NFL Films long lens camera shows Polamalu catching the ball and getting both feet down before stepping out of bounds and into the embrace of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Look at the joy on LeBeau's face as he congratulates Polamalu. It's the best part of the shot, because it tells you everything about one of football's most enduring figures.

This is LeBeau's 50th consecutive year in the National Football League. Think about that for a moment. He has been in the game as a player and a coach for half a century. Dwight Eisenhower was president when LeBeau broke in with the Detroit Lions. Bert Bell was the NFL commissioner. Babe Ruth still held all the home run records.

All those years, all those games, yet it is clear that LeBeau enjoys it as much today as he did when he was a 6-foot, 185-pound cornerback picking off passes thrown by John Unitas and Norm Van Brocklin. Football has been his whole life. The game is richer for it.

LeBeau played 14 seasons and set the league record for most consecutive games played at cornerback (171). His 62 interceptions ranks eighth on the NFL's all-time list. It is an impressive resumé, one that puts LeBeau among the best players of his era, yet he is even more accomplished as a coach. He is one of the game's great innovators, the creator of the zone blitz which he introduced more than 20 years ago.

LeBeau stepped directly from the playing field to the coaching ranks, retiring as a player following the 1972 season and taking a job as special teams coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. In the 36 years since then -- as a defensive backfield coach, coordinator, assistant head coach (Buffalo, 2003) and head coach (Cincinnati 2000-02) -- he has worn many hats.

It is fitting that in this, his golden anniversary year, LeBeau is having his best season. His Pittsburgh defense ranks first in the NFL against both the run and the pass (no defense has done that for an entire season since the 1991 Eagles) and slso leads the league in fewest points allowed (183).

No wonder the Steelers are 10-3 and leading the way in the AFC North.

LeBeau has produced a top 10 defense in each of the past six seasons while coaching for three different teams. The address may change, the players may change, but with LeBeau calling the shots, the results are the same. He has been to four Super Bowls -- twice with the Bengals, twice with the Steelers -- and finally won his first ring in 2006.

In this Game of the Week, a 20-13 win over Dallas, LeBeau's defense gave a glimpse of what could be another championship season. On a frigid day at Heinz Field, the Steelers shut down the Cowboys, forcing five turnovers and sacking Romo three times.

Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who has flourished in LeBeau's zone blitz scheme, tied the club record with his 15th sack of the season. The winning touchdown came on a 25-yard interception return by cornerback Deshea Townsend. Some called it an ugly win, but the look on LeBeau's face said otherwise.

To the old cornerback, it was a thing of beauty.

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