Dick LeBeau has pretty much seen it all and done it all in a Hall of Fame career as a player and coach that has spanned nearly 60 years in the NFL.
But on Thursday night in his return to Pittsburgh, where he coached for 16 years in two different stints with the Steelers LeBeau will be doing something new – inhabiting the visitors locker room at Heinz Field.
“I’ve never been in the visitors locker room at Pittsburgh, so that’ll be new. But other than that we’re going on the road and playing a football game,” LeBeau said.
LeBeau, head coach Mike Mularkey, offensive line coach Russ Grimm and defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend all have strong coaching and/or playing ties to the Steelers organization. But those old-time ties have to take a back seat to the job at hand when the 6-3 Titans take on the 7-2 Steelers in a prime time game.
LeBeau said he has no intentions of getting sentimental on the sideline Thursday night.
“I’m trying not to think at all about anything except the Tennessee Titans trying to get ready to play a big football game,” LeBeau said. “Both teams I think have won four in a row. It’s going to be a great challenge for us, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Mularkey addressed the same topic on Monday in his media session,
“I think it’s about the game,” Mularkey said. “I’ve been back there a number of times since I coached and played there. Should be a good environment for Thursday Night Football, but it’s about winning a game, that’s all that matters.”
And while the coaches are saying and doing the right things leading up to the game, the players still think there will be added emotions at play with the coaching staff – especially with LeBeau going back to Pittsburgh for the first time since he exited there after the 2014 season. His players want to make the return even sweeter for the 80-year-old coach with a win Thursday night.
“He won’t tell us that, and he won’t tell you guys (media) that,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “I’m pretty sure this one means a lot to him. I think it’s his first time playing there since he’s been gone … We want this one for him.”
Guard Quinton Spain (turf toe) was able to practice Tuesday and appears on track to be able to play Thursday night after missing two games.
All other Titans players on the injury report – quarterback Marcus Mariota (ankle) and tight end Delanie Walker (wrist) – are good to go.