Dick Lebeau is most famous as being the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1995-1996 and 2004-Present. He also came up with the Zone Blitz in part to counter what Detroit, Houston, and Atlanta were doing with the Run & Shoot Offense. The Zone Blitz is largely credited with partly being the reason why the offense as a base use was driven out of the NFL but is there any proof? I’ve decided to take a look at the game logs from 1989-1991 when LeBeau was defensive coordinator for Cincinnati and 1995-1996 when he was defensive coordinator for Pittsburgh.
1989 Cincinnati @ Houston: Warren Moon was 17 of 33 for 198 yards and 1 TD vs. 1 INT. I’d call this a success for the zone blitz, although Hoston won 26-24.
1989 Detroit @ Cincinnati: Bob Gagliano and Rodney Peete combined to go 13 of 27 for 171 yards and 0 TD vs. 2 INT.
1989 Houston @ Cincinnati: Warren Moon and Cody Carlson combined to go 16 of 34 for 181 yards and 0 TD vs. 3 INT.
1990 Houston @ Cincinnati: Warren Moon went 25 of 48 for 288 yards and 1 TD vs. 1 INT. Cody Carlson went 1 of 6 for 12 yards and 0 TD vs. 1 INT.
1990 Houston @ Cincinnati (Playoffs): Cody Carlson went 16 of 33 for 165 yards and 2 TD vs. 1 INT.
1990 Cincinnati @ Houston: Warren Moon went 21 of 33 for 369 yards and 5 TD vs. 1 INT. Cody Carlson came in and was 3 of 7 for 32 yards with 0 TD vs. 0 INT.
1990 Cincinnati @ Atlanta: Chris Miller went 13 of 18 for 124 yards and 2 TD vs. 0 INT.
1991 Houston @ Cincinnati: Warren Moon went 22 of 37 for 315 yards and 1 TD vs. 1 INT.
1991 Cincinnati @ Houston: Warren Moon went 24 of 37 for 289 yards and 3 TD vs. 2 INT. Cody Carlson came in and went 4 of 7 for 92 yards and 1 TD vs. 0 INT.
1996 Pittsburgh @ Atlanta: Bobby Hebert went 24 of 36 for 234 yards and 2 TD vs. 1 INT. Although Pittsburgh won 20-17, Hebert had a good game.
As is the case when looking back, Dick LeBeau and his Zone Blitz scheme had its share of successes but also had a fair bit of failures as well when going up against the Run & Shoot Offense. The key statistic when measuring defense is of course how the team did in the win/loss column. Here’s how Dick’s teams did: 5-5 for a .500 record overall.
So while the Zone Blitz had some impact and may have slowed down the Run & Shoot Offense at times, it’s clear looking back that it wasn’t as shut down as many pundits and media members seem to remember it being.