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January 31, 2009

Can Steelers' LeBeau do it again?

TAMPA, Fla. — Rod Woodson’s election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame capped off a news-making week for the former Steelers cornerback, who earlier had this to say about Super Bowl XLIII:

“This is the worst matchup for the Steelers,” Woodson said. “The way you beat a 3-4 defense is to spread them out and hit them in the seams. Arizona can do that.”

And the Cardinals have the talent: Kurt Warner is an accurate, quick-throwing quarterback who’s already won a Super Bowl; Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston are only the fifth trio in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards apiece; and the great Edgerrin James, in a late-career revival, averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the last five games.

Of course, the Steelers have the No. 1 defense in the league, and “the man behind the mask,” as linebacker LaMarr Woodley put it.

That man is Dick LeBeau, and it’s his job to stop an offense that’s scored 30, 33 and 32 points in three playoff games.

But LeBeau has done it before.

n In Super Bowl XXIII, LeBeau’s Cincinnati Bengals faced the San Francisco 49ers, who’d averaged 31 points in the 1988 NFC playoffs. LeBeau’s defense held Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Roger Craig to 13 points until a 92-yard drive resulted in a touchdown with 34 seconds left to beat the Bengals.

“We had them 2nd-down-and-18 on that last drive,” said LeBeau. “We had worked on a defense two weeks there that really took Rice out of the play, and I thought this is the play to make them go somewhere else. So I called that defense and we had so many guys around Rice they knocked themselves off and Jerry caught the ball and ran about 45 yards. That’s how they got down in there, and we almost held them there.

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