Welcome to Episode 4 of the The Season: 2008 Steelers podcast, featuring Steelers' 2005 second-round pick and two-time Super Bowl champion Bryant McFadden, who will be your weekly guide on the 10-year anniversary of the Steelers' improbable run to their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
Each week, McFadden will talk to different players from that Super Bowl-winning squad. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you'll never miss an episode.
The Steelers entered the '08 season with the league's toughest schedule and the preseason prognosticators didn't expect this team to make it back to the playoffs. In the first episode, McFadden and former teammate Ike Taylor revisit training camp, preseason and the first half of the 2008 season. In Episode 2, , and for Episode 3 where he talked about the greatness of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
This week, McFadden welcomes LeBeau, who had a 14-year career as a defensive back, spent 45 years as an NFL coach (13 in Pittsburgh), was a two-time Super Bowl champion, and is a Pro Football Hall of Famer. The two reminisce about about just how dominant that '08 defense was.
"You guys were so consistently difficult to move the ball on," LeBeau said. "There was no weakness. There was no spot in that defense where the opponent could say, 'Well, we can go here ... because they were going to have a problem wherever they went.'"
Some of the highlights from Episode 4:
- Recounting LeBeau's 59 years in the NFL -- before he was a coach, he was one of the league's top cornerbacks; (2:00)
- LeBeau on the Steelers organization coming to his Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2010 -- "It was one of the highlights of my life"; (8:00)
- The difference between coaching in Pittsburgh and other cities around the league; (11:00)
- How LeBeau game-planned every week with the stacked roster he had in '08; (15:30)
- LeBeau on creating the fire-zone blitz; (19:40)
- That one time Lawrence Timmons got run down by a Patriots tight end and his teammates haven't let him forget it; (25:30)
- How did LeBeau game plan against elite players like Randy Moss? (28:00)
- When things aren't going as originally planned, how did LeBeau make in-game adjustments? (33:50)
- LeBeau on what James Harrison brought to this defense (36:30)
- James Harrison's Super Bowl pick-six was the greatest football play LeBeau has ever seen (41:45)
- What was it about Troy Polamalu that set him apart from any other player you've coached? (45:00)
More on Harrison from LeBeau:
"He's one of my favorite stories," LeBeau began. ... "James Harrison was released, i think, five times, it might've been six and I'm damn sure it was at least four. ... He persevered and I've always been proud to say I was never apart of the coaching staff when he got released (by the Steelers).
"I saw him on the practice field and in training camp. That was my first introduction to him. And I always watch a few days of practice before i even really start talking about the players too much. Keith Butler (now the Steelers' defensive coordinator) was our linebackers coach at that time and I said, 'Coach Butler, who's that Harrison?' And he filled me in on his background ... and I said, 'Well, I haven't seen anybody block him yet and we've been in camp for about three days with two-a-days. I think we need to figure out some way to keep him on this squad.'
That was the first team that he made [and] it was the first year I came back to Pittsburgh (2004) ... and his first year, [special teams] is how he made the team," he continued. "We still weren't sure what we had with him. He was almost impossible to block and we didn't realize he was that good a pass rusher ... but when we went up to play Cleveland, Joey Porter got in a fight with their fullback before the damn game even started. ...
"The whole team had almost gone off the field when the ref came over to [tell] coach Cowher that Porter's out of the game. ... I went over to [coach Butler] and said, 'Go get Harrison and found out what he can run (regarding the defensive game plan) ... because he's going to be playing the whole game. Keith thought I was kidding."