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'A blueprint'

Former Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau, the NFL's human time capsule, has his Steelers playing infinitely well. In the 12th week of his 50th season in the league, Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator has his guys No. 1 in the Triple Crown of stats: Total yards, total rush yards, and total pass yards.

LeBeau turned 71 earlier this season but the guy who coached the Bengals defense into two Super Bowls is as relevant today as he was in 1988. Or make that 1972, when he finished off his all-time record 171 straight games at cornerback for the Lions.

Which is also the year his boss was born.

"He comes to work every day exploring and asking the critical questions. He's trying to get better," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in Tuesday's conference call with the Cincinnati media. "He's a source of inspiration to all of us. He's a blueprint of what professional coaching is about."

LeBeau coached the Bengals for nearly three full seasons after taking over in the wake of Bruce Coslet's resignation in the fourth game of the decade. A 2-14 season in '02 ended it all, but he had them at 4-3 at the '01 bye with the franchise's best defense (No. 9) in the past 20 seasons and what's forgotten is how his bedrock calm gave order to chaos in that September of '00.

Tomlin, who says he's never seen LeBeau rattled, won't get into specifics but he's gone to LeBeau for issues other than defense during his two-year tenure that has now reached 17-9 and has a shot at doing what Bill Cowher didn't do and win the division in his first two years.

"You're talking about a man who's been in this league for 50 years," Tomlin said, "and not only that a man with head coaching experience. I think it would be prudent to lend an ear to his experience and get his take on certain situations. I'm willing and do that often. I do lean on him quite a bit."

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