By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense suffered quite an unusual lapse in their loss to the Minnesota Vikings, which was predicated upon a sudden inability to consistently bring down the ball carrier.
It really is no secret, since the main culprits during the game were all featured on the highlight reels on the 24-hour sports networks. Adrian Peterson’s 60-yard touchdown run, on which Ike Taylor came up to make the tackle and missed; Greg Jennings’ 70-yard catch and run, featuring a pair of missed tackles by Cortez Allen, both at the beginning and the end of the play, and another missed tackle by William Gay; even the long reception by Jerome Simpson.
All of these plays displayed a highly uncharacteristic trend of poor technique by the normally sure-tackling Dick LeBeau defense. In fact, of the team’s 39 missed tackles on the season, a whopping 15 of those missed tackles came in London, and unfortunately they still count back in the states.
The sad fact of the matter is that there are only two teams in the league that, through the first quarter of the 2013 season, have missed more tackles on defense than have the Steelers. Those teams happen to be the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Washington Redskins, with 42 and 52 missed tackles, respectively.
Only a handful of teams, in fact, have missed 30 or more tackles in total this year. Being in such an undistinguished category on defense is certainly not familiar, nor comfortable, territory for this team.
And the fact of the matter is that that has to change. LeBeau’s defensive philosophy is predicated upon preventing the big play, forcing teams to play a short-area game that increases the volume of plays, and thereby decreases the margin for error.
The Steelers’ defense is structured in such a way that it often places one specific player in the position to make the play. He either makes the play or he does not, which can be the difference between a three-yard gain or an explosive play, with Peterson’s first touchdown being a perfect example of that.
This typically has not been a problem. In 2012, the Steelers missed only 82 tackles all season. In 2011, they missed just 69. During their last Super Bowl run in 2008, they only missed 67 tackles.
The 2013 edition of the Steelers are on pace for nearly 160 missed tackles. Something has got to give, and fast, because this last loss was on the defense. Missing tackles is a fatal blow for a defense that is not getting sacks and turnovers.