Thursday night's tilt between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers might just be a mid-week clash of two AFC division leaders, but there's also a sneaky revenge game factor. For the first time since leaving Pittsburgh, current Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will face his former team.
Steelers vets, who had been there during the decade-plus LeBeau era, are dutifully preparing for a reunion with their former DC.
"It's not just a defense," Roethlisberger told reporters Tuesday, per The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's a Dick LeBeau defense." Asked what he expects to see from LeBeau's Tennessee unit on Thurday, Roethlisberger added, "Everything."
The 80-year-old defensive coordinator spent 11 seasons in Pittsburgh, from 2004 until 2014 when his contract was not renewed. Within a month, he was hired as an assistant coach/defense in Nashville. Hired under Ken Whisenhunt, LeBeau was retained when Mike Mularkey assumed the head coaching position. Under his guidance, the Titans' defense has generally been the weaker link on the team, unlike his days in Pittsburgh. This year, Tennessee's defense ranks 16th in total defense and 22nd in scoring defense.
Wary of the tendencies and ticks of the man calling plays against him, Roethlisberger suggested Tuesday that, on a short week, Pittsburgh might go no-huddle from the get-go against LeBeau's defense, so as to prevent the effectiveness of his old coordinator's schemes.
"You have the no-huddle, and it's been in [the playbook] since Day 1," Roethlisberger explained, "so rather than try to install a bunch of new plays, you go with what you know and have been doing for a long time."
"I like the no-huddle," Brown added. "It gets us a chance to establish rhythm and tempo, not letting defenses get their calls in and allowing us to play fast and get lined up fast."
With both the league's rushing (Le'Veon Bell) and receiving leaders (Brown), Pittsburgh has the playmakers to exploit immediate personnel mismatches with short, smart plays. But LeBeau wasn't born yesterday. Regardless of how they attack the Titans' defense, the Steelers still expect the DC to maximize his unit's talents.
"He's going to get the best out of his personnel, and he's going to do what's best for his team and what he has in terms of secondary, linebackers, D-line," Big Ben said. "He's the best at what he does. He'll find a way to get his team in the best situations possible with the players he has."