Poor Tackling And Explosive Plays Hurt The Steelers The Most In Loss To Vikings

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau always preaches to his defense that they must stop the run, tackle the catch and not give up the big play in order to be successful. Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, his unit failed in all three of those areas and as a result the team now heads into their bye week at 0-4.

Not only did the defense allow five explosive plays of 20 or more yards during the Sunday loss, three of them went for 51 yards or more of which two went for touchdowns.

Since returning to Pittsburgh in 2004, a LeBeau led defense has never allowed three plays of 51 yards or more in one game. In fact, the last time a Steelers defense has allowed such a feat was in 1999 when they gave up four plays of 54 or more yards in the 31-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Steelers tackling Sunday was atrocious and it started on the Vikings second offensive possession when cornerback Cortez Allen took a bad angle and failed to bring down wide receiver Greg Jennings following a seven-yard catch. 63 yards later Jennings was in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.

The bad tackling didn’t stop there as there were several missed tackles on the 60-yard touchdown run by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson with 12:52 left to go in the second half. On that play, Vince Williams, Lawrence Timmons, Ike Taylor and LaMarr Woodley all whiffed with their tackle attempts.

In total, the Steelers defense allowed 393 yards of offense Sunday and 226 yards of those yards came courtesy of five explosive plays. To make matters worse, the defense also allowed 154 yards after the 16 catches were made in the game.

During training camp, the Steelers coaching staff allowed a lot of live hitting to take place in an effort to sort out a roster full of young players. Sunday against the Vikings there was no evidence that extra work even took place.

While the Steelers offense was far from perfect Sunday, it was the defense that let the team down the most in the loss. Now that the bye week is here, LeBeau better review his three main principles with his unit and it wouldn’t be a bad a idea to mix in a few tackling drills during practice in addition.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • The Dane

    I feel this article is right on the money. Alot of steelers fans have given our offense heat for not being better and I do no means say they had a great game. But when a steelers offense make 27 points and only turn it over once (not counting the last as there would have been too little time for vikings) any normal steelers defense would have given us the win.

  • CrazyTerry

    I said this before it became obvious to everyone after the VIkes game. The defense was also to blame for the chicago loss. I said this last week – the main culprits for the chicago loss were Big Ben, Adams, Foster, and the D. The D gave up 17 points on the first 3 Chicago drives(and yes, I admit the middle drive was a short one thanks to Big Ben’s turnover). Then chicago went into safe mode and lacked any urgency. Once Steelers brought the score close, the D once again couldnt do anything. The worst thing aboutthe D is the lack of ability to get a turnvoer. CUtler had 3 INTs today. Our D couldnt sack him much, and c0ouldnt intercept him at all.
    I bashed Haley when he deserved it. The coaches from Tom;lin to Haley still deserve to be bashed for still playing Mike Adams at LT. Yet even I will concede Haley’ splayvcalling has been much better the last two games. The offense inspite of Adams played well enough to win today. In the past, our D would get a turnover or two in Arians time and gift our offense excellent field position. Our offense had mediocre field position for most of the game. Why? Because our D cant do much in terms of turnovers. It would be more tolerable for the D to give up points if they can get some turnovers. And why dont they gtet turnovers? Not enough talent. heyward and Keisel seem to be the only people on D who can tip passes. Ike finally had an edxcellent INT , butit was easily batted out of his hands. Richard Sherman makes that INT.
    This is why turnovers are important other than short fields for your offense – the other QB will think twice before hitting his next pass in a small window? if he thinks the worst that can happen is a mere incompletion instead of a turnover, guess what, he is going to kill your defense in clutch moments instead of choking.,
    The coach on the spot is Lebeau and Butler. Ray Horton continues ot excel on other teams. What is Butler contributing as heir apparent? Colbert is on the spot for his drafting of just average D talent. Woodley is not a probowler anymore. He is an almost player. I am glad he finally generated a fumble(not recoveredd), buthe has to make more of an impact and not get blocked by a single TE.

  • Rod Hedrick

    The defense plays without heart.

  • Rob

    The offense plays with out points. The offense was ineffective until the other team went into the prevent. They only do well enough to get close in garbage time. Ben needs to toss the ball faster than 7 seconds into the play. The offensive line needs to get better on their blocking assignments. The defense now has the mark of Tomlin as does the offense and like him they are in over their respective heads.

    On a positive note the last time the steelers were this bad they hit some really good drafts in the near future and went on to win 4 super bowls. They will likely need to get some new coaches as well.

    Rest in Peace L.C. Greenwood

  • Jonas

    You should count the last. It would have been a touchdown for a tie!

  • Nolrog

    I find it hard to blame the defense in a game that the offense gifted 23 points to the opponent. You’re also blaming the defense for points that certainly shouldn’t be blamed on the defense. The offense turned the ball over inside their own 20 (at their own 17 to be specific.) I’m not saying this defense has been playing well. It hasn’t been for 3 years now, but to blame that loss on the D is really not fair.

  • kev4heels

    The sign of a bad football team is finding a different way to lose every week. Prior to this week, there really hadn’t been many big plays given up by the defense. Labeau’s defensive strategy is to keep everything in front of you and make the tackle. Prior to today, it has been pretty good. Up until today, we the defense wasn’t the cause of the loss. That changed. Against the Titans, we couldn’t score. Against the Bengals, our OL was horrid. Against the Bears, we turned it over continuously. Against the Vikings, we give up big plays. It will be something different every week. Sign of a bad team. And BTW – still no TO’s. That has to be some sort of record. But please Mike, keep allowing us to sit back 7 yards off the ball. It’s working great – NOT. You can’t get TO’s by GIVING teams 5 yards on every throw.

  • kev4heels

    Oh, and I know we have no choice but to let Vince Williams learn OJT, but he is killing this team with over pursuit and getting caught in the wash. Several plays a game he is getting caught in the flow and RB’s are cutting back with wide open lanes. Never thought I would miss Foote so much.

  • r4kolb

    This whole team plays without heart.

  • dgh57

    Going into this Vikings game the Defense was the least of my worries as the only player I was concerned with was Adrian Peterson. But I failed to remember that we have a tendency to let average QBs look like a Joe Montana. Matt Cassell was terrible last year in KC to the point he was booed relentlessly! We seem to find ways to lose every week and the defense let us down this week with all the explosive plays. If we could get a Special Teams punt return for a TD or a TO to help out that would be great but NO that can’t seem to happen for us. BTW, I have forgotten what something like that feels like it seems so long ago. The bye week came at a good time as we could use it about now!

  • The Dane

    My point is that the defense allowed 34 points even though they only had 1 bad field position because turnovers. Far from good enough for a steelers defense.
    Yes, it is far from optimal that the offense turned the ball over in the endzone but 27 point from a steelers offense should be enough to grab a win.

  • treeher

    I tend to agree with Terry. He didn’t lay all the blame on the defense, but the fact is that they couldn’t make a stop after the O made mistakes, and that’s always been the mark of a good defense. I’ll blame the defense for the last two losses. Look at yesterday … Steelers come out and score right away in the 3rd quarter, and what does the D do? Let them march right down the field and score in something like 5 plays. That’s awful. Only D in the NFL without a turnover this year. That’s almost incomprehensible.

  • r4kolb

    Is it just me or does anyone else notice our corners play 10 yards off opposing receivers? Seems like the game plan for the opposing O coordinators is to just throw the short pass and take what we give them. Which usually is 6-7 yards on first down. Or hope like yesterday we miss the tackle and the play goes for even more yards. Seriously at what point do you as a D coordinator tell your corners to press more? I think that is one of the biggest problems with our D, even an average QB like Cassel can throw that pass.
    As far as Ben goes maybe someone (Dave, Matthew) could pull up some stats since the Superbowl against Green Bay and see what Ben has done in the 4th quarter with the ball and a chance to win the game. In his early years he used to win us those games. Now he seems to cough it up at the end. Also in his early years when he saw he could run for the first down if his receivers were covered he would do it and keep the chains moving. Now he never runs. I’m not saying run and get killed I’m just saying if the first down is there and your receivers are covered take it and move the chains.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I have wondered on both of those things too. I was going to suggest a breakdown of turnovers by quarter

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I looked it up yesterday where if we scored 27 points in a game we would have won 12 games and tied 1 last year.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The FO has put us in this situation by not drafting well and not getting decent veteran FA’s for depth. I know the cap situation but the FO must make harder decisions to create better depth. In the long run this maybe the best thing that happens to us. Some may become mad at me but if we have the worst record I want Bridewater. I love Ben but when you put the ball in his hands all game good things will happen but he takes too many sacks, will fumble and throw picks and lately at the worse possible times. Everyone is held accountable but Ben it seems. Time to put him on notice.

  • Virdin Barzey

    I hear you about the defense for this game but from my count that 3 to 1. That’s 3 awful games by the offense to one by the defense. The offense still had a chance to pull it out but they continue to turn the ball over.

    Lets just be clear, the problem with the Steelers is the lack of talent on the field. There is only one way to change that and its amazing that they are only realizing that now and not in camp. Very poor from GM on down. It will change but its embarrassing for Steeler Nation.

  • Bell Cow

    I’ve never seen a Steelers team get pushed around defensively the way they have this season. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again ; they do not have the right personnel up front to run LeBeau’s 34 scheme. At the end of this season, the coaching staff and front office really need to evaluate the defensive scheme they would like to run moving forward. Personally, I believe if we depart from veterans such as Kiesel, Clark, Foote, and Ike Taylor, they should allow Tomlin to implement his Tampa 2 defense with the young guys.

  • John Hinton

    I know we are commenting on defense here but has anyone else noticed that the “supposed” upgrade at punter with the signing of Mesko is not yielding an advantage for our kicking game?? Sure, his hang time is good but when we have opportunities to flip field position, his punts seem to travel only 35 yards or so! Looks like the pats did the right thing by letting him go. Dave or Matthew can you do an article looking further into this?

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Missed tackles piss me off almost as much as turnovers. How is it that I see PLENTY of teams whose DB’s wrap up the opposing team’s receiver with two arms the moment they catch the ball. Our guys? They look worried they’re going to be fooled by a double move, so they dive at the player to one side with one hooking arm around them like they’re doing a Barrel of Monkeys impression. Guys barely have to even shake the tackle. They actually look like they’re reaching for the invisible flag on the receiver’s belt.

  • Tom Savastano

    0 turnovers in 4 games.. At what point is it not “bad luck” and falls on the players and scheme… Its been too consistent for a while now to be just bad luck..

  • Mike Carroll

    Hey, Jared Allen, wanna play with a continual 10 point lead? Well, the Steeler defense gave the Vikings just that yesterday. In spite of being asked to play a mere 10 minutes of football in the first half of the game, the defense gave up 20 points (and zero Steeler turnovers were involved)! That is an awful performance. Worse yet, the Steeler offense takes second half kickoff and drives for a TD to cut lead to 3. What does the defense do? Allow another easy TD, allowing Jared Allen and company to continue to pin their ears back and eventually produce a couple of turnovers which are very much a part of today’s NFL. Every defense in the NFL produces more turnovers when playing with a lead (not just the Steelers). And lately, the Steelers can’t get a lead because their defense is horrendous.

    I’m not saying blame everything on the defense. It’s a team sport and clearly both sides of the ball have had big problems. But, as the offense seems to finally be getting better, the defense is being exposed as a terrible unit.

  • Virdin Barzey

    I agree with you Nolrog. You can’t turn the ball over 5 times on offense and expect to win, then blame the defense. I guess he would blame the defense for the fumble run back for the TD as well. Silly. Did the defense play well? In spurts and was by no means great in the Chicago game. They did enough to ensure a win if the offense doesn’t turn the ball over FIVE TIMES……

  • Mike Carroll

    The point is the defense was very much part of the initial large lead the Bears obtained.

  • chris ward

    Steelers tackling was the worst I’ve seen in a long time.

  • Callentown

    Not sure if anyone saw this on AFC Playbook, but they showed the Steelers D each time the ball ended up on the ground and no players paid any attention.

    The point was, teams like the Bears who have many turnovers see the ball as THEIRS, anytime it’s not in someone’s hands, and even then! They pounce on it and start the other direction.

    Not the Steelers D.

  • Mike Carroll

    Neither side of the ball has been good when the game has been close. That should be obvious after the last two games. That’s what bad teams look like.

  • Mike Carroll

    Disagree. The defense plays without talent. Where are the playmakers making impact plays? But, those guys are playing hard. Just not good at the moment.

  • Mike Carroll

    Yep, I was disappointed with his game yesterday as well.

  • Mike Carroll

    I agree that Ben’s place on this team is no longer certain.

  • Mike Carroll

    Timmons certainly didn’t help any. He has been coddled and given more than he deserves at every step of his career because he was the very first pick in the Tomlin era. I have never thought as much of him as so many other fans seem to. That contract he received in 2011 was total joke because there was no other team in the league that would have paid 60% of what the Steelers gave him.

  • cencalsteeler

    What the heck has happened to Ryan Clark? Last year he was a dominating force for the Steelers defense. This year, his contributions are terrible. In fact, his play his hurting our team rather than helping. His tackling his hideous. He seems to never be in position. It is just baffling to me. If Clark does not improve his play, I’d like to see more playing time from Shark.

  • Don

    Yes, I commented on this yesterday. We had the worst of both worlds in this game: corners playing way off the WRs, and then not making the tackles either.

  • John Hinton

    Great post ^! His play through the first 4 games has been 180 degrees opposite from last year’s pro bowl worthy performance. It’s baffling.

  • cencalsteeler

    Shannon, if this team wants to contend in the future, your points are valid. If our record takes us to a high draft pick, we have to take Bridgewater if he is there. Ben has been the face of the Steelers organization for years and has represented well. His style of play, or extending the play, is not cohesive with a young line. Defenses are now understanding how to defend him more. It’s similar to the run and shoot, the pistol, the read option, etc. Teams catch on the second and third times around. Other teams look at tape and learn how to solve the riddle. Ben’s extension of the play works at times, but compared to previous years, the percentage of negatives out way the positives. The Steelers held on to the Super Bowl team for too long, and we are witnessing the results of that currently. Hopefully, they have learned from this and know when it is time to move on when the time is right. If the Steelers end up with a high draft pick this season, I for one, am on the Bridgewater campaign.

  • Mike Carroll

    It’s really sad that a 35 y.o. Keisel remains one of your best players on D. Anyone seen Hood? Heyward? Clark is done and there is no reason to bring him back next year. Troy and Ike may not be culprits this year, but they remain overpaid and both should be asked to take significant pay cuts next year or released. I think Ike will do so, not sure about Troy. Timmons and Woodley are both overpaid as well, but Colbert has restructured their contracts beyond repair. The team is stuck with their contracts.

    At least Colbert was smart enough to not extend anyone during training camp. Most players will be on the discount rack next year where they seem to belong.

  • Jonas

    Yes, I fully agree. I just mentioned my opinion to this little detail of your post ;-)

  • Mike Carroll

    Hopefully the FO is realizing they veered way off path by putting way too much money into so few players. That’s never been the right formula to winning games and it’s stunning the Steelers made this mistake. I’ll put that on Art Rooney II as much as Colbert.

  • CrazyTerry

    Exactlymy point. Also the lack of turnovers makes the other QB more confident in taking risks when throwing passes into a tiny window because they know the worst that can happen is an incompletion instad of an INT. Do you think the Steelers D intercept Ben that many times?

  • CrazyTerry

    I mentioned this last week. REWATCH THAT FIRST QUARTER . The defense did nothing that first 20 minutes. First Chicago drive/ FG. Second drive was a short field caused by Ben’s fumble/ still they scored way too easily/ Third drive was a long field and Chicago scored way too easily. Down 17 points. And if you noticed I included Ben, Foster and Adams in the loss too/

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Here’s the break down. BB hit Tonio (twice) for SB win in 2008, had a real nice season in 2009 and since the 2009 playoffs he has shit the bed. Too many injuries, too many concussions, too much money? Whatever it is, that turnover machine needs to go so the Steelers can get out of cap hell after 2014.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Suggested this personnel is a 4-3 and got mocked. They only have two decent LB, JJ could become the third, and 5 healthy, capable DLinemen.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Yeah, to all those who wanted to waste good money on old and /or average, see Ryan Clark and Ziggy Hood. That will be two improvements next year…maybe sooner?

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Hey Roethlisberger, Pola, Ike, Woodley, and Timmons…We really sucked with you guys eating up the entire cap, so, you all get 50% cuts next year. Take it or leave it.

    There’s more to a football player than how well he performs…it’s how well does he perform/ vs. the amount of cap space he eats up.

    BB really must go, the others can take a cut.

  • natty

    agreed. would like to see a .gif breakdown of his performance through first 4 games. he appears to be slow(and/or indecisive, out of position), missing tackles, and not playing with the fire and intensity of years past.

  • Bell Cow

    Of course they would need to draft some new pieces and bring in a few free agents but I don’t think the change would be as drastic as u think.

  • Bell Cow

    Also, teams change schemes with success all the time. Dallas went from the 34 to 43 and now they’re near the top of the league in turnovers. New Orleans went from the 43 to 34 and ow have the top rated overall defense.

  • Ahmad

    Maybe the vets need to stop playing ping pong during business hours too.

  • Fritz Baughman

    I think we are seeing what happens on defense when you lose guys like Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton. It all falls apart. Badly. For years, these two were the absolute best at their position and were double teamed every game. So take that away and fill it with someone like Ziggy Hood? You all see the results. No longer do our D lineman need double teamed – and that severely hinders our LB’s from getting to the QB. Until the Steelers plug their D line with football players and not stiffs, things will NOT change. It’s a sad fact. You simply cannot get to the QB in a 3-4 defense when your defensive line sucks, and an NFL QB without pressure is not going to turn the ball over.

  • Dan

    Indeed it was disappointing to see the poor tackling by our defense. Obviously we’ve taken major steps backwards on D, but hopefully the rebuilding will pay dividends at some point before the decade is out. But I still believe we have a top 15 defense and a top 12 special teams to go along with our top 30 offense.

    And since I’m not posting anything today without bashing Mike Adams, I’ll say that if the coaches don’t come to their senses and cut Mike Adams today, he should not only be benched, he should be the bench if he can prove he wouldn’t roll over in that role.

  • Don

    There’s a certain amount of logic there and tough decisions need to be made in the era of the salary cap, but the extreme example you cite would ensure that no one in the league would want to play in Pittsburgh.

  • cencalsteeler

    I’ve always thought the salary cap is broken. These guys make way too much money and we (the fans) take the brunt of it through ticket prices, concessions, etc.
    Put every player on a one million dollar a year contract. Bonuses paid through participating in all OTA’s, meetings, playing in all games and bonus play (ex. a db’s int. amount at seasons end. A lb’s sack amount. A punter’s net avg.).

  • Josh Knepshield

    Things look bad right now, but I think things are going turn around after the bye. The offense is starting to click a little bit even if ben is getting pressured on every throw. Bell and Heath are back now and ben has more weapons. The defense will not play like this again. This game was a fluke and lebeau will wip them into shape over the bye. I think steelers 27 jets 10 to move to 1-4.

  • Riverstko

    Spending too much time on TV espn doing interviews instead of training.

  • Riverstko

    McClendon Hood and Allen are the weakest link in our defense. McClendon is too light Steelers went from a 330lb DT to a 270lb DT. Hood a surprise draft pick who needs to play with more swagger. Allen from the citadel (another ricardo colclough small school project) should not be a starter in the nfl maybe nickel. A S.E.C. WR would eat him up everytime.