- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin declined to discuss Dick LeBeau’s future with the Steelers, telling ESPN.com on Friday that he won’t talk about offseason issues until after the season.
If input from the players is given a lot of weight, LeBeau will return next season as the Steelers’ defensive coordinator.
“He’s the best at what he does,” strong safety Troy Polamalu said. “Because we may not be having as good a year as we’ve had in the past does not mean by any means that he has lost touch.”
LeBeau, who turned 76 in September, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Thursday that he wants to coach beyond this season. His age and a down season by the Steelers’ defense has led to questions about whether LeBeau will be back in 2014.
The Steelers have slipped to No. 13 in total defense after allowing the fewest yards in the NFL the previous two seasons. They have also given up 11 plays that have covered at least 50 yards.
LeBeau said on Thursday that he doesn’t believe the Steelers need to tear down the defense and rebuild it. His faith in the players is reciprocated by them.
“There’s just something about him,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “You can’t even put your [finger] on it. There’s just something about his presence, there’s something about his knowledge, there’s something about his humbleness, there’s something about how he handles each individual. We all respect that.”
LeBeau is in his second stint as the Steelers’ defensive coordinator. Since returning to Pittsburgh in 2004 the Steelers are first in the NFL in 13 defensive categories, including scoring, rushing and passing.
LeBeau, who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player, is widely regarded as one of the most innovative defensive minds in NFL history. His most enduring legacy, however, may be the connection he has made with the players he has coached and the impact he has had on them.
“I love him as a coach. I love him as a person. Just to be around him and get coached by him is an honor,” rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “He still runs and jogs, still does push-ups, has a lot of energy. For somebody his age it’s unbelievable that he continues to do the things he does on a daily basis. He’s healthy as you can be. Hopefully he’s here for the rest of my career, too. I’m just going to take advantage of the time we have here together and make the best of it.”