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LeBeau leaves Bills to become Steelers' defensive coordinator

Jan. 16, 2004

SportsLine.com wire reports

PITTSBURGH -- Dick LeBeau returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers as defensive coordinator on Friday, rejecting an offer to stay on the Buffalo Bills' staff.

LeBeau, who ran the Steelers' defense the last time they made the Super Bowl during the 1995 season, was the Bills' assistant head coach last season and worked with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. He took that job after being the Bengals' head coach for nearly three seasons.

When Tim Lewis was fired as the Steelers' defensive coordinator after four seasons, LeBeau was immediately contacted by Steelers coach Bill Cowher. LeBeau interviewed with Cowher on Tuesday, a day before Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey was hired as the Bills' coach.

Mularkey sought to retain LeBeau, but LeBeau apparently had decided by then to return to Pittsburgh. LeBeau was on Cowher's initial staff in 1992 as defensive backs coach and ran the defense during the 1995 and 1996 seasons.

LeBeau left Pittsburgh after that season to return to Cincinnati, where his family had continued to maintain their home while he coached in Pittsburgh.

"Pittsburgh is like going home," LeBeau said Friday. "I was at the Pitt basketball game Monday night and 25 people came up to me and wished me good luck and said, 'Come on back.' I thought, 'This is pretty neat.'"

LeBeau is considered one of the NFL's top defensive innovators and he introduced the zone blitzes that the Steelers ran successfully in the mid 1990s, when their defense was nicknamed "Blitzburgh." The scheme was later copied widely throughout the NFL.

LeBeau's hiring came a day after defensive backs coach Willy Robinson was hired as the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator. Robinson was interviewed by Cowher for the same job but was not offered it.

Darren Perry, who was brought in this season as an assistant defensive backs coach with the idea that Robinson might leave, is expected to take over the secondary.


The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2004, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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