Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau didn’t invent the zone blitz. The origins of football schemes are rarely that simple.
LeBeau did greatly popularize the concept, with a little help from Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. The two men coached together in Pittsburgh under Bill Cowher, and helped to bring “Blitzburgh” to the Steel City.
The rise of the zone blitz is the subject of a fantastic chapter of Tim Layden’s book Blood, Sweat and Chalk and SI.com is running the chapter for free. (Highly recommended.)
“Those three years were fun years,” Capers said on Wednesday. “We kind of developed some concepts out of necessity because we were having a hard time getting pressure on the quarterback. I can remember our first year there, we were about three quarters of the way through the season and we started running more zone pressures.”
By year three, the Steelers led the league in sacks. Capers and LeBeau ultimately now run defenses more similar than different.
“You could probably step into the huddle and we could take one of their players and he could step in our huddle and one of ours could step in theirs and there probably wouldn’t be a lot of difference in the calls,” Capers said.
The success of Green Bay and Pittsburgh will undoubtedly inspire copycats this offseason. That just means LeBeau and Capers will have to go back to work.
“The more prevalent things become, I think sometimes they become less effective, so you have to stay ahead of the curve,” Capers said.