PITTSBURGH — When asked if he intended on returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers again next season as their defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau’s response was short and sweet.
“Well, that’ll be up to Coach Tomlin,” LeBeau said. “Let’s just say that I really like Pittsburgh, and I really like working for the Steelers. But Coach Tomlin will have to tell you whether he wants me back. So, it’ll be up to Mike, but I love Pittsburgh.”
That didn’t appear to be too definitive an answer, but every Steelers defensive player asked about it would love to have LeBeau back.
“I don’t know,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “But he’s a living legend … a fun guy to be around, a quiet leader. Pretty much everybody respects him in this organization, and all the guys here pretty much have had the honor of playing for him their entire careers. I love him like a father.
“Good or bad, we look up to him like a dad. I know that we play for our families, each other and the organization, but for us in the secondary … he was a cornerback (in the NFL), and we play for Coach LeBeau. I believe he wants to go out with a bang. He wants to go out on top.
“So, I’m guessing it’s with the Lombardi Trophy,” Taylor added. “I know a lot of people would just be happy with the No. 1-ranked defense, like we have here. It’s just my opinion, but I think Coach LeBeau wants to hoist that Lombardi Trophy just one more time.”
Despite its lofty ranking, the Steelers defense likely will lose a few veteran components next season, but several younger guys appear ready to step in. The same could be said about the offense, and that’s why coordinator Todd Haley wants to stick around for a second season, even if another head coaching job becomes available.
“It really is not anything that I’m thinking about,” Haley said. “I’ve said it a bunch of times, and even when I came in and sat down with Mike. I said that this is where I want to be. I have almost three years experience (as a head coach), and I’ll needle (Tomlin) occasionally that this is a lot more fun than what he has to deal with. And in some ways, it is.
“(And) you get to coach and work with the players on a daily basis and interact all the time. And that’s the closest thing to being out there, so I’m happy being year. And I want to finish this year in the right manner to kind of push us into the offseason and get ready to be better next year.”
Haley believed that another season together is what the offense needs.
“I think there’s no substitute for experience, and having a year under your belt at a new place is a big item,” Haley said, “because you have a lot to go by now. … There’s a much more clear picture about all the players, your needs and what we need to work on. I also know the coaches better, many whom I did not know before I came here.
“So, there’s no substitute for experience, and then it’s about what you do with it. And we will work hard to get better. Change is difficult. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always comfortable. (But) it doesn’t mean that it’s not right. I was fortunate to be the guy who was chosen, and … a year experience working together, all of us, is priceless.”
For the Steelers Thursday, OT Mike Adams (ankle), CB Curtis Brown (ankle), CB Keenan Lewis (knee), SS Troy Polamalu (not injury related) and WR Mike Wallace did not practice, while LB Marshall McFadden (abdomen) was limited.
For the Browns, CB Sheldon Brown (concussion, foot), TE Jordan Cameron (concussion), QB Colt McCoy (right shoulder), QB Brandon Weeden (right shoulder) and RB Trent Richardson (ankle) did not practice Thursday, while WR Josh Cribbs (knee), DT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (calf), DE Juqua Parker (knee), DE Frostee Rucker (shoulder, hamstring) and OT Joe Thomas (back) were limited.