Three players with Pittsburgh ties - Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, former Pitt offensive lineman Russ Grimm, and former Pitt defensive end Rickey Jackson - will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in Canton this weekend (along with Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Floyd Little and John Randle). Behind the Steel Curtain has a nice tribute to LeBeau:
One of the most durable players ever to play in the NFL, LeBeau still holds the league record of playing in 171 consecutive games at cornerback. His career spanned from 1959 to 1972. He also recovered 9 fumbles, returning them for 53 yards and a touchdown. LeBeau went to the Pro Bowl three straight seasons, 1965-67 ....
He is a fierce competitor. Credited with inventing the "Fire Zone" or "Zone Blitz" defense, LeBeau systematically deploys unpredictable pass rushes and pass coverages, using the 3-4 defense. Defensive linemen may drop back into short pass coverage zones to compensate for the pass rush coming from other positions. The concept is intended to confuse the opposition's quarterback. Many times the pressure feels like a blitz, but is actually not, since not more than four defenders rush the quarterback. The illusion of a blitz creates pressure and certainly creates confusion in the blocking scheme.
"It hasn't settled in, really," LeBeau said. "I can hardly believe it. It's naturally one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me in my life. How can you express the gratitude you have for an award like this?"
LeBeau was elected to the hall as a player, not a coach, although his career on the sideline, particularly as the creator of the zone-blitz defense, certainly helped his cause.
Rick Gosselin, The Dallas Morning News' NFL writer who made the case for LeBeau in front of the Hall of Fame seniors committee, described LeBeau's coaching career as the "elephant in the room" during the discussions.
But Gosselin and others believe firmly that LeBeau's success as a player made him worthy of the hall long ago.
We'll have updates on Grimm and Jackson during the day on Friday.