Poor Tackling Rears Its Ugly Head Once Again For Defense

By Matthew Marczi

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Sunday’s game having already tied their season total in missed tackles from last year at 82, according to Pro Football Focus. That was already a far cry from their heyday of recent years. They missed just 69 tackles in 2011, 76 in 2010. In 2009, it was again 69. In 2008, just 67.

The Steelers missed 15 tackles against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, giving them 97 missed tackles on the year.

They got off to a bad start to the season with missed tackles during their four-game skid to start the year, but appeared to settle down after that until the game against the Detroit Lions. In the two games after that, they missed only six tackles combined.

Could it have just been the snow? Well, not if you consider that the Dolphins—who play in Florida—only missed five tackles.

Leading the way in missed tackles was, unsurprisingly, Troy Polamalu, whose missed tackle on Dolphins tight end Charles Clay led to the go-ahead and eventually game-winning touchdown after Cortez Allen also could not bring him down.

The rest of the secondary chipped in an additional five missed tackles, while Lawrence Timmons added three of his own, just a week after being a force against the run versus the Ravens.

It wasn’t just the missed tackles, however, that doomed the Steelers. It was the mistakes that prevented a tackle from even being attempted.

On Ryan Tannehill’s long run, it was Jarvis Jones and Polamalu getting sucked in on the read option play and Will Allen taking a poor angle.

On Clay’s first touchdown reception, double coverage on Mike Wallace prevented anybody from picking Clay up after selling the run block on Jason Worilds, resulting in a wide-open touchdown.

Later, Daniel Thomas walked into the end zone from four yards out untouched because Worilds was in coverage and Timmons rushed up the middle, leaving open a wide gap that they took full advantage of.

Finally, Thomas’ long run on the Dolphins’ game-winning drive was set up when Polamalu was blocked into Cameron Heyward, preventing either from even attempting a tackle on the play.

While the missed tackles may have been just one of many problems the Steelers faced against the Dolphins, it was certainly a major factor. It also gave them their most missed tackles in a season in several years, with three games left to play. In other words, this has been an issue all season.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

    Remember when Chuck Noll would say “We need to get back to basics” and then torture his players all week? Always effective, but the new CBA prevents that kind of coaching now.

  • steeltown

    There were a lot of missed tackles all over the League on Sunday due to bad weather, obviously the Clay play hurt.. but what is alarming is the consistent poor tackling and or missed assignments week after week from our veteran leaders Taylor and Clark

  • chris ward

    The missed tackles have been really disappointing this year, worst tackling by a Steelers defense in quite a while.

  • 20Stoney

    The tackling all season has been baffling to me. And it’s from guys that used to be able to tackle. I just don’t understand it.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    A couple of years ago, the Steelers’ turnovers began to disappear. It was around the time the suspension and fines began, while the league made examples of Steeler players who were hitting a little too hard. Do you remember how everyone used to finish the play? Well, they had to stop doing that. Yet the defense still played well and I remember saying that I would like to see a little more gambling on defense to create the INT’s and Fumbles that they used to get from being fierce.

    Now we know that LeBeau has always favored DB’s who are sure fire tacklers instead of the flashy guys that get more INT’s, and the D somehow continued to play well into last year, despite the lack of turnovers. Unfortunately now we no longer have the near guarantee of a tackle on every play. It’s very frustrating for us as fans, for LeBeau, whose systems still work great if the players execute, and for the organization especially.

    I wish I had the answers. My new motto is, “Let’s go young!”

  • Elijah Stevenson

    There’s no excuses because Miami a warm team was unaffected by the snow and played well.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    The mixed tackles all started wk 4 against the Vikings. I honestly believe that the secondary is just to small, they really need to gain some points then they should be able to tackle better. Clark, Allen, Gay, Cortez, troy, Jarvis Jones all of them. Especially ike and troy, when ike was covering receivers like CJ AJ and torry Smith be looks so small, and since troy is filling in for Larry Foote he can’t tackle as well for LB. All of defense/receivers go to the weight room.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    Sometimes I ask myself should Lebeau retire because it seems like he’s running out of tricks and every year it seems teams r figuring him out, but then again he’s a hall of fame DC.

  • cencalsteeler

    Nice points made in this article. The missed assignments and lack of tackling really is a summary of why the Steelers are 5-8 in a nutshell.
    The first series of the game against the Dolphins. Ben throws to AB on third and long. AB has a nice gain, but runs out of bounds a few yards short of the first down marker. Punt team runs on the field and it’s business as usual. WTF? Why didn’t AB turn the play inside and fight for the first down? I would have laid into Brown for that type of effort! Running out of bounds is only for times you need to stop the clock or AFTER you get a first down. That one play, is a perfect example of why this team is where it is. Unfortunately, those type of plays have been sprinkled throughout the season and our record is the result.

  • Ken

    Miss tackles are often from being out of position. It’s easy to miss a tackle when your late getting there. Linebackers are always out of position this year on run plays. I don’t know why, then we have aggressive safetys so it is a recipe for giving up big plays or no gains…. this year it has been big plays.

  • Alan Felicia

    Lack of Talent! Older playmakers (Polamalu, Clark)! Too many holes they’re trying to fill or replace – NT/Hampton, ILB/Farrior, OLB/Harrison, DE/Keisel, CB/Taylor. The defense just has too many inexperienced (Jones, Williams) and inconsistent (McLendon, Hood, Allen) players.
    You’re absolutely right, its a Young Man sport! Maybe Colbert should’ve realised this 2-3 drafts ago.

  • Alan Felicia

    Anyone notice that Pittsburgh gave up 100+ yards rushing to a back up RB- Daniel Thomas. WOW!

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m ready for Butler to take the reigns and bring some new twists to this defense!

  • Poor tackling has been a problem for at least the past two seasons. For all the heat Haley takes, our defense has been the main problem this season.

  • RMSteeler

    Opponents getting the ball out in open space this year. More speed before first contact with the size of players now makes tackling more difficult at second level. 3 man defensive front with runners hitting holes at full speed not helping either. Things got to tighten up and agree secondary has to get more size.

  • alex

    its like the entire Steelers backfield has become 30 year old running backs…

    theres only one skill a Steelers DB needs, and none of them have it this year…