LeBeau finds safety in Steelers

2-7-02, 1:35 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau dipped into his Steelers' Super Bowl defense for the club's new safeties coach Thursday when he tapped Darren Perry.

Perry, 33, a free safety who started eight seasons and 13 playoff games, replaces Ray Horton in his first coaching job since retiring from the Saints after the 2000 season.

Although Perry has never been a coach, LeBeau is banking on Perry's experience as a signal-caller in the zone-blitz scheme the Bengals have employed since LeBeau returned from Pittsburgh in 1997.

LeBeau's association with him goes back to Perry's rookie of 1992, when LeBeau was in his first season as the Steelers' secondary coach and he took Perry in the eighth round out of Penn State.

"Darren was like a coach on the field, which is why I wanted to talk to him for this job," LeBeau said. "He was a good player and he knew what he was doing out there."

Perry went on to open his career with a streak of 110

straight starts, including Super Bowl XXX on the NFL's No. 1 defense coordinated by LeBeau.

Perry started 139 of 141 possible games, missing only two 1997 games with a groin injury. He finished his career with 33 interceptions and 562 tackles.

Perry joins second-year cornerbacks coach Kevin Coyle in a secondary that markedly improved last year in the Bengals' rise to ninth in NFL total defense.

Safety is a position the Bengals have earmarked for addressing on the first day of the April 20-21 NFL Draft. The three top safeties are expected back in starters Cory Hall and JoJuan Armour and backup Darryl Williams. Chris Carter is a free agent and there have been no indications he'll return.

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