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.