PITTSBURGH ─ Known to contemporary NFL fans as the mastermind behind the Steelers defensive successes of the past 18 seasons, Dick LeBeau was honored with the highest individual award in professional football when Pro Football Hall of Fame announced him today as a member of its Class of 2010 for his 14-year career as a player.
LeBeau is part of a seven-member class that also includes offensive guard Russ Grimm, linebacker Ricky Jackson, running back Floyd Little, defensive tackle John Randle, wide receiver Jerry Rice and running back Emmitt Smith.
In August 2009, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee had named LeBeau and Little as finalists for the Class of 2010, and then they both received at least 80 percent of today's vote by the overall selection committee to be elected.
"I would like to congratulate Dick on his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Steelers' President Art Rooney II said. "Few men in the history of the NFL have contributed more to the league as a player and coach than Dick LeBeau during his 51 years in the league. All of us with the Steelers are thrilled with his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010."
LeBeau spent all of those 14 seasons as a cornerback for the Detroit Lions, and he still holds the NFL record for that position with 171 consecutive games played. His 62 career interceptions currently rank seventh on the NFL's all-time list and were third in the league at the time of his retirement following the 1972 season. LeBeau earned three trips to the Pro Bowl (1965-67) and led the NFC in interceptions with nine in 1970. He originally was drafted by the Cleveland Browns out of Ohio State, but he was waived during training camp and claimed by the Lions before the start of the 1959 NFL season.
In addition to his Hall of Fame resume as a player, LeBeau has had a stellar career as an NFL coach. Acclaimed as the inventor of the "zone-blitz" schemes that still are widely used throughout the NFL, LeBeau has spent the past six seasons in a second tour as the Steelers' defensive coordinator. Hired to be the secondary coach on Bill Cowher's first staff in 1992, LeBeau became the defensive coordinator in 1995. He was the Steelers' defensive coordinator in 1995-96 before leaving the team to take a job with the Bengals that set him up with the chance to be an NFL head coach.
The Steelers led the NFL in total defense in 2008 and have led the AFC in rush defense in three of the past six seasons under LeBeau's direction. Pittsburgh has been at or near the top in several defensive categories during his two tenures with the Steelers and he has helped the team reach three Super Bowls as a coordinator, with wins in Super Bowls XL and XLIII and the loss coming in Super Bowl XXX.
LeBeau has spent a total of 37 seasons as an NFL coach – as an assistant with the Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, and as the head coach of the Bengals from 2000-02.
LeBeau will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, Aug. 7, at Fawcett Stadium.