Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau talked at length after practice on Thursday of Washington Redskins week about the task of stopping rookie phenom Robert Griffin III. Here is that transcript with the media:
"Pretty interesting athlete. He scorched everybody in college and he's doing a good job here in the NFL. Quite a challenge, he's a great athlete. He can run, and he's a much better athlete than most of those running-type quarterbacks. We'll have our hands full. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Do you know you're 13-1 coaching against rookie QBs since 2004?
"I didn't even know it until somebody told me that the other day. The only comment I have is I hope I'm 14-1 on Monday."
Do you spy him?
"I think you have to respect his athletic ability and his ability to run. He makes a lot of plays in that manner and he makes a lot of plays on designed runs for him. We've got to know where [number] 10 is but you know they've got a guy with 46 on his back who is leading their conference and second in the league in rushing, so you don't want to turn your back on that guy while you're looking at 10 all the time. That's one of the reasons they've got such a potent offense, they've got more than one guy. And the cast of characters around those two is strong. They're a good offense, no question about it, I think they're number five in the league."
How do you stop Griffin?
"We're going to try to get everything communicated and be where we're supposed to be, see what we're supposed to see and play clean hard football and chase the ball down because it's going to get out every now and then. Chase it down, tackle it, and play good consistent defense."
Does the threat of Griffin create space for his running back?
"Oh I think so, I think that's one thing you have to guard against. You can't get mesmerized by the stuff he might do and let the basic play, number 46 who's a tremendous runner himself, give him more room to go in there. And let's face it, as good as the quarterback is 46 is going to have the ball more than number 10. The simple fact is you have to defend both of them and anyone else they want to give the ball to. 36, the fullback, gets the ball on occasion and that's another step of deception if you will because they've got two top rushers and then this guy is coming in with a pretty healthy yards per carry, to. What we have to do is not any different from what we have to do every week, and that is we have to be on our keys, get communicated, get lined up, and play good defense."
Do you attack or try to wait it out and react?
"Yes, that's what you do. Didn't you ever hear that answer before? When somebody asks 'Is it black or is it white?,' that's what it is, that's what we're doing."
Have you seen anyone like him?
"Oh, I think he's very rare, I really do. I think his numbers indicate that, what he was able to do at a major university. But what I find kind of interesting is there are five of those young men who are starting in the National Football League and they're all five very productive good football players right away. I think it's a testament to the style of football that colleges are running now, the type of athlete that is playing quarterback and getting all of those snaps and open field looks all the time. It's not such a transition coming to the pros. These guys have proven that the younger guys can play quicker and be productive quicker. He's probably as good as anyone I've seen that's a combination of running and passing. Vick was tremendous, I don't know if you're going to say he was better than Vick but you're talking about the cream of the crop there."
How unfamiliar is the offense that they run?
"Fortunately we're far enough into the season that we have a pretty good look at that part of it. Their coach is a genius and he's never going to show you the same thing two weeks in a row. But he's still going to run the same plays. The formations may be different, the people may be different, but the plays you've got to stop may be repeating. We do have that. I'm glad we're not playing them in the first game. We've got some idea of what they're going to do but we're not sure what they're going to do it from. It's still defense, taking your key, having everybody on the same page, and have everybody playing hard. We've got to do that every week no matter who the quarterback is."
Is there a danger in defenders getting caught looking in the backfield?
"Well, fortunately defensively we shouldn't be looking in the backfield that much and your keys won't change from week to week. Your gap responsibility is not going to change from week to week. What you've got to look at to get where you've got to get is not going to change. Now, what changes when you've got a world class athlete that can keep the ball and outrun some of your defensemen that's something that you've just got to give credit to them and chase the ball, tackle their tail, and get up and play the next down. We don't have to look in the backfield, if we do we're in trouble."
Why do they do all that hocus-pocus then?
"Unfortunately, every player doesn't do what their coach tells them to do. They look in the backfield and they get lost."