STEELERS vs. CARDINALS SUPER BOWL XLIII SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2009 KICKOFF IS AT 6:00 P.M. TELEVISED ON NBC RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM
*DICK LEBEAU and BRUCE ARIANS Thursday, January 22 *
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR DICK LEBEAU
What kind of problems does Larry Fitzgerald pose for you?
I think that he is probably the best that I have ever seen with the balls skills and the extension at the ball. NFL receivers can all catch the ball, they can all run, most of them have great hand-eye (coordination); this guy is special. They say that a basketball player plays taller than he is; this guy is like seven-foot tall at the ball. They just throw it up to him; they don't pay attention to whether he is covered or not. They have been rewarded with it because he usually comes down with it. He is a great player.
How do you think Ike Taylor can handle it?
We are working on a shorter step-ladder for Ike to carry around with him so that he can get up higher in the air. Our corners all have to do a good job at the ball because they are going to be tested. I think that our numbers say that our corners have done a good job for us. We haven't played against this guy every day; that is for sure.
Have you ever played a guy similar to that?
I think that this guy is special. That is indicative by a number of his catches. Those of us that are from this area have seen him to this all the way back when he was in college so it is really nothing new. I guess they are having some success out there, so maybe he is getting a little bit more notoriety. He has been a great receiver for a long time.
Do you ever game plan against a receiver? Are they a primary focus or can they be?
Yes, if we have to. I think that we at least have to attract their track record and what they have done. I always try to approach it like a great scorer in basketball; you are not going to stop them, you just have to keep them from dominating the game; instead of scoring 50 points, they score 18-24. That is what we try to do with a top receiver.
How do your schemes and teachings stay ahead of the curve?
Believe it or not, the game has changed. The numbers that you need to be successful have (changed) very little. Those are yards per throw, yards per snap, yards per rush, yards per catch; when I first started keeping track of this, it amazed me how repetitive they were, in spite of points scored going up and the productivity of the offense going up. They yards that you need to be a successful defense really haven't changed too much. We have built everything that we do around angles. We try to keep a certain goal; if we can meet that goal, then we are a productive defense. That has stayed viable for 20 years. I have the statistical data to support that, however I won't show you.
What are those numbers?
They are 3.7 a rush, 4.7 a snap, and 5.7 a throw. If you do that defensively, you will be in the top 10 every year.
Is that attempt or completion?
There are two aspects to yards-per-catch. If you are giving up high-10 to 11.2, then you would want your completion percentage to be a little bit lower. If you are giving 9.8-10-2, you could be very competitive with a 63-64 percent completion (percentage) because they are not getting the ball up the field on you. Those numbers, to me, are more relative to the yards per snap, catch and rush.
When you started compiling this data, was there anyone else doing it?
There was probably was not anybody as statistically orientated as me because my dad was an accountant and my cousin, who was really like a brother to me, was a controller. That was the environment that I grew up in. I have always charted things my entire life. I didn't want to be pulling numbers out of a hat for our guys. If I gave them a goal or number, I wanted it to be a meaningful goal that, if they achieved that goal, they were going to be a competitive defense. I had to look at what successful defenses had done over a course of years.
Do you remember when you started doing this?
I did it when I first started coaching, but I didn't get a chance to talk to the team about it until I became a coordinator. I still had to talk to the defensive backs, so I wanted them to know that I had researched what I wanted them to do. When I tell them that this is going to be good enough, I wanted it to be good enough.
Is yards per pass or yards per catch more important?
Yards-per-pass is much more important because you have your sack yardage into there. You take the net passing yardage and you divide it by the times thrown and the number of sacks. That will give you the number of yards they get every time they throw the ball against your defense. If that number is up, you are going to see your points allowed up there. Everybody knows that points allowed is really all that matters; you say that you can't give up points. Well, how do you do that? In looking for a way to teach ways not to do that, these are some of the statistics that we have tried to formulate our thoughts around.
Do you remember where you were when those numbers first made sense?
I was playing right corner for the Detroit Lions. It has been valid. That has been surprising to me because the game is different. To be successful defensively, it really hasn't changed a wit. The percentage of runs to passes has changed dramatically, but not those numbers.
Do your players keep you young?
Unquestionably. I have to stay young enough to be close enough to yell at them. It won't do much good if you are 60 yards away from them.
Do you ever think about age and how you are still calling plays that get you to the Super Bowl?
The players get us to the Super Bowl. I am just the lucky guy that gets to call the defense. It is a young man's job; I am aware of that. I think that our players will probably let me know when I am too old. You would have to ask them, but they haven't given me any indication that they want me out the door. I like what I am doing and I love the guys that I am doing it with. Health is always a factor; you have to be realistic. I don't know how you are supposed to feel at 71, but I feel good.
What's it like playing in this game against people like Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt, who you have coached with?
It is different; I won't lie about that because they are my friends. You want your friends to be successful, and this is one game that I would prefer that they would not be. I have really ambivalent feelings because I really think a lot of both of those men. Kenny and I were really close friends; we played golf together all the time. We were both at the same skill level so we could never be on the same side because nobody would ever let us play together. We are very good friends.
Are you surprised at all that they have gotten this far?
They are talented men and I think that this just reflects the ability that they have.
Who is the better golfer?
My modesty prevents me from saying that. You will have to ask Kenny.
Who would be the one who won practice drills?
Coach Cowher kept track of that all the time so whoever Bill was mad at that day, the other guy won.
You guys used to get pretty deep into that:
We still do it every week. It is a good thing; it is a competitive one-on-one where we take five snaps and the head coach keeps track; that takes care of all the bickering from the assistants. It is just the way that we finish practice on Wednesday. It is a lot fun.
What are the advantages or disadvantages of knowing Ken's playbook?
I think that it is a wash because anything that I would know about Coach Whisenhunt, he would know about me, and vice versa. I think that it is going to come down to how our players play. We will be trying like heck to get one-up on each other just like out on the golf course. It is going to come down to how our players play. I know that he will have some good stuff for us.
How does Kurt Warner's success against the blitz affect what you do?
It doesn't bother me that his statistics are that good against the blitz; it bothers me that they are that good against the zone and the man; you have to play something. He has been very effective against all of them. That is why they are in the Super Bowl. They have a very talented offense, great receivers, a good running back and a quarterback who can make it all go. When you get this far, you know that you are going to be playing top-notch competition; you respect that and you try to get your guys in the right position. I think that our guys will play hard. I know that they will play hard; I know that they will play well.
Do you see this as matching wits with Kurt?
I am not matching wits with anybody. I am going to try to get my guys out of the huddle and get out of their way; I hope they make some plays for us.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BRUCE ARIANS:
Strong commitment to run - How important is that even if it wasn't successful against the Ravens?
Very. We have a healthy running back situation where we needed to establish it and stay with it. Baltimore is always tough. It's a thing that when you are going to play them, run efficiently. You aren't going to get six, seven and eights. You have to settle for twos and threes. But you are going to play the game of third-and-five and slow down that pass rush. I was very pleased with numerous times we were able to do it because we had the lead. That had something to do with it and it also kept our quarterback clean.
Is it never too late to establish an identity?
Yeah, I think you find one every game. Every game has a different identity. Each one presents a different circumstance in how you are going to play it. You play the first three quarters or two and a half and see what you have to do to win a ball game. You stay balanced. That's really part of the game plan. That last quarter and a half really depends on if you are ahead or behind, even ball game, what's working to that point, then you may change. That is why you have to have so many different personalities within your offense. You have to have a no-huddle. Whether is be a fast one or a slow one. But you have to be able to change the pace of the game, you have to be able to slow the game down. That I feel like we have. We have situations where we can load it up, smash mouth it, we can spread it out and throw it to anybody and so I think we have different personalities and that makes up your identity.
When Hines went out, what went through your mind and what changed?
Things changed and I can't say what went through my mind, can't print it. But that's the heartbeat. That's the guy that makes a lot of things happen in big ball games. We had to move guys around in positions on third downs, gotta give Ben (Roethlisberger) a ton of credit. He hung in there with guys running routes that he had never seen because of Nate (Washington) having to move inside and Limas going outside to a position he hadn't played a lot. Moving guys around, hey on this third down we are probably going to play this, line up here and on this third down line up there. So there was a lot of coaching going on on the sideline. Randy Fichtner did a fantastic job getting those guys in-tuned on the sidelines. They credit goes to Ben because he hung in there, trusted his guys, created plays and those are the kinds of things that happen when you get a key injury like that.
Did Nate Washington practice in Hines Ward's position prior to the game?
No, because Limas (Sweed) never plays in there. He is an outside guy, and usually plays behind Tone (Santonio Holmes). We didn't want to move Tone, we liked where he was, so we took him outside and put Nate inside. Nate has practiced in there some and has played it, so it wasn't totally new to him but he was running the routes so differently than Hines.
Re: Tomlin's young age and veteran coaches and players
It's very easy when the guy (tells you like it is). He comes in, he's honest, he knows his stuff and he lets you coach. He has been fantastic. He is the same way with the players. Straight forward, honest approach and you know what you get and you know what to deliver. There is a black and white and a bottom line and a great working environment. It is great working for someone like him.
What worries you the most about the Cardinals defense?
Turnovers. They are leading all teams in creating turnovers, four a game, which is a huge amount or anybody. That have great team speed and they are playing with a lot of confidence. Obviously you have to create ways to block Adrian Wilson because he gets himself in some positions where he is un-blockable. He is a guy that you have to find and account for because he is a force in the run and the pass. He is probably the best pass rushing safety that we have faced. He is a better pass rusher than some of the linebackers. So our running backs have to wear the big-boys pads and have your chin straps on real tight if they are going to block him. The corners are solid.
How big is ball control in your game plan?
It's not going to be any good if we don't score with it. Cause you don't get anything from holding it. It's the production of the time that you have it, I think that's the key. If you only have it 30 minutes, you have to put up some points. If you hold it for 36, you still better put up some points, because these guys are explosive. We know Whiz (Coach Whisenhunt) is going to have some tricks and it's not a game where we can sit and play like last week and run it run it run it because punting was a very good thing in that ball game. Biggest thing when you play Baltimore is shut out their defense first and then you can have a chance to win. It's not going to be that way this time. Each game presents different problems.
What is more important; knowing the plays or tendencies? What's the advantage?
I think you could hand the playbooks to the guys and it won't do them any good. I have all of those playbooks and Coach LeBeau didn't ask for any of them. It's the guy, it's the moment and you know they are going to have some things that break tendencies and it still comes down to the players. They are going to make the plays and not make the plays and we try to put them in the position the best we can but it is still up to them.
How much do you think you know Ken Whisenhunt's tendencies?
Yes and no. I think Todd (Haley) has done a lot if it and they are collaborating on it and I really don't have time to worry about it. That's Dick's (LeBeau) problem. I've got enough with Clancy, who I have worked with and know a little bit about so, yeah, that part I can't really help them as much other than that. You never really know until it happens.
How much respect do you have for what Larry Fitzgerald has done in the playoffs?
He's great, he is the best there is right now. If I am a quarterback and I have to throw it to a guy that the circle is this big or throw it to a guy with a circle as big as this room, I am going to be a damn good quarterback. That's what he gives you. You can have him blanket it, but I trust I can put it somewhere up on those rafters and he is going to go up and get it and he is going to come down with it. That's an unbelievable thing, especially in the redzone.
Re: Cardinals attacking corners
I think it is just getting through different zones. It looks like they are picking on a guy but is just so happens that it might come to that zone. In the man-to-man situation, I didn't think they were. DeShean Jackson has had some success crossing the field and getting into other people's areas. It looked like it might be a guy but really it was just zone coverage. They are solid corners. Totally different guys and they are real good.
Is there anything valuable from the film of the 2007 game when you played them?
No. They are so different now. Their tendencies are different and their front is different, their safeties are better, a young corner makes a big difference. I think just the overall confidence in which they play, the speed at which they play. Not really.
How has Dick LeBeau stayed ahead of the curve?
I think because he has the ability to stay creative and be simple. It's one thing to have exotic schemes and these young guys come up now that have these exotic schemes they have copied off of someone else. Dick sits down with a piece of paper and pen and goes through formations and draws up blitzes and they are very creative, they beat what you do but they are very simple to his guys and the way he teaches it, and we are all teachers, he is a great teacher, and to me it is the biggest compliment when you flip on the films and all of the other teams are doing his stuff. Next year they will cut up all of the Pittsburgh films and they will all be running these blitzes next year. But they don't really know why they put them there. That's the beauty that Dick know why he put it in. He knows a lot of guys that are head coaches now and have copied other peoples' stuff and the two best coordinators in this league are 70 years-old, Dick LeBeau and Tom Moore. They are great teachers and they know why they put it in.