The Steelers can reach .500 with a win over Carolina today. That is, if the entire squad hasn’t been rendered unconscious by the oratory skills of one of their coaches. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac.

In addition to being a defensive innovator and strategist, Dick LeBeau is also a great story-teller.

But there is one story he tells every year to his players, and his unique recital from memory has become the stuff of Steelers team lore.

That’s why he was requested to tell “Twas The Night Before Christmas” for all team and front-office members at the annual Christmas party the other night. Team chairman Dan Rooney asked LeBeau to recite the story for everyone, and he obliged, touching and spell-binding those in attendance with his rendition.

“That’s the kind of request you don’t turn down very readily,” LeBeau said.

So there was LeBeau, telling a narrative that led up to the verse, then reciting the story — without book — with emphasis and sound effects. He spoke for nearly 10 minutes, enthralling everyone who listened.

It is something he began doing when his kids were small, and he still does it for his “other” kids.

Even though they got an early preview the other night, LeBeau will tell the story again for the players during an upcoming team meeting.

“They’ll get a doubleheader,” LeBeau said.

Joey Porter, unavailable for comment?

The Big Lead speculates there’s some ill will between the NFL Network’s Bryant Gumbel and Dick Vermeil, and I give the TBL (or at least his readership) tons of credit for even noticing. I watched more than half of last night’s Dallas/Atlanta tilt with the sound off and I’ll testify that those who’ve mocked Gumbel’s play by play efforts over the past month have not been exaggerating. Not since Eric Dickerson’s stint as a sideline reporter (or Dave O’Brien calling the World Cup) has the mute button been so crucial.

(UPDATE : David Scott reports that Vermeil — himself a sub for Chris Collinsworth — was losing his voice last night, requiring (?) the halftime intervention of Deion Sanders.

Did anybody happen to speak with Dick before the game? Because, I dunno, the analyst would seem to need two things: a tie and a voice. Without the former, you can still squeeze by “ without the latter, you are completely useless and a complete embarrassment to your network. (All this, while the awful Coors commercials with Vermeil answering mock questions from moron Coors drinkers is run during game breaks.)