It wasn’t easy for Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to watch the Ravens win the Super Bowl two weeks ago. He told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Tuesday that “it hurts to see the Ravens win anything.” And that is especially true because he feels the Steelers could have been the ones playing in the Super Bowl.
“Do I feel we could have done the same thing they did? I do. I do,” LeBeau said. “It didn't break that way.”
The longtime defensive coordinator and zone blitz guru pointed to injuries while bemoaning a lost 2012 season in Pittsburgh. Perennial Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu missed seven games this season and outside linebacker James Harrison wasn’t quite himself because of an injury. And then there was starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who missed three key games in the second half of the season as the Steelers went 8-8.
LeBeau said the banged-up Ravens got healthy at the right time.
“They got the right people back at the right time, and we continued to have more injuries, it seemed like,” he said. “Many times that decides it.”
The Ravens and Steelers split their two meetings this season. Both were played without Roethlisberger. The Ravens won, 13-10, in Pittsburgh in Week 11. The Steelers started Byron Leftwich that game. They turned to Charlie Batch two weeks later, and the veteran rallied the Steelers to a 23-20 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
The fact that the Steelers were competitive in those games without Roethlisberger makes LeBeau believe that the gap between the Steelers and Ravens, who have won two straight AFC North titles, can be closed.
“Can I say with a certain amount of credence we can compete with Baltimore day-in and day-out? I know it and I can say it,” LeBeau said. “We didn't have Ben in either one of those games. I know we're a better team with Ben because he's a great player, and that's not a knock on Charlie or Byron. Ben's our No. 1 quarterback, and we didn't have him.”