Steelers Dick LeBeau Knows Defense Has To Fix Explosive Play Problem

If you have read this site for a while, you already know that I have an affinity for tracking the TOX stat. That stat, which tracks the differential of explosive plays and turnovers in a single game, plays a big part in whether or not a team wins or loses a game.

Explosive plays of 20 yards or more, which makes up half of the TOX stat, is something that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense normally prides themselves in on not giving up as long as defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been calling the shots. Last season, however, while only allowing 53 explosive plays (ranked in bottom 3rd of league), which is already high for a LeBeau defense, 17 of them were double explosive plays of 40 yards or more and five of those were runs.

For the 2014 season, I will be counting double explosive plays in increments of 20 yards each as I truly believe they should count more than just one explosive play. Think back to that 93 yard touchdown run last year by Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Had he only gained 20 yards on that play, there’s a good chance that the Steelers defense would have regrouped and perhaps eventually stopped the drive without giving up a touchdown.

LeBeau knows all about explosive plays and how meaningful they are in games and on Wednesday he was asked if he knew why his defense allowed so many of them in 2013.

“We were young and we were going to the wrong places,” explained LeBeau, according to Will Graves of the Associated Press.

The Steelers will have even more youth on defense this season along with a few new faces. Rookies Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt, along with veterans Cam Thomas and Mike Mitchell, are all expected to see a considerable amount of playing time in 2014, so we will monitor the explosive play situation with a ton of anticipation. LeBeau will do the same with the hopes that the number will go down this year.

“That’s always been one of our strengths. We intend to make it (that way) again,” he said, according to Scott Brown of

Explosive Plays Given Up By Steelers Defense 2004-2013


  • Steelers12328882

    Shazier, Mitchell and having Troy play his normal safety position I think will do wonders for our defense and it’s ability to stop these big plays.

  • chris ward

    Hopefully the Steelers get back to not giving up those big plays in 14′. LeBeau’s track record shows that it is usually a strength of the Steelers to not give up those explosive plays.

  • cencalsteeler

    Though I agree with LeBeau, the secondarys tackling was dismal at best. Was glad to hear they did some tackling drills the other day. Nobody on the secondary (other than Troy) runs through their tackle. Half hearted attempts, head down, arm tackling, and the new dive with your shoulder to the leg attempts. Lake needs to get back to fundamental tackling with his secondary. They are the last line of defense, and ultimately the results of the explosive plays given up.

  • Jones

    Can’t upvote this enough!

  • IndianaSteelerfan

    Amazing that the Steelers gave up more 40+ running plays last year than they have totally given up in the past 10 years.

  • colingrant

    Run Defense – When the Steelers return to an average rush against of (3.6-3.9) or so, things will take care of themselves and a return to normal (top 5 defense). It starts with 1st down run defense. A lack of interceptions, forced fumbles, sacks and game changing plays are rooted in forcing predictable passing situations.The system isn’t designed and the personnel wasn’t drafted for a steady diet of 2nd and 3’s, which we saw a lot of last year. The script is flipped with 2nd and 3 and the Steeler are being dictated instead of dictating. When the Steelers have to honor the run in play action, they’re toast. In our best years, teams abandoned the run by midway through the 2nd quarter and often before and sometimes by the 3rd defensive series. lol………

    But, with McClendon in his first year and logging more snaps then ever before, playing at 303lbs; Ziggy being the turnstile that he was (line of scrimmage was changed to 7 yards behind the original on Ziggy’s side) and being forced to play a rookie at ILB, the entire balance and dynamic of the defense was changed. Troy’s creativity and play was compromised due to having to play closer to the line to address leakage caused by the aforementioned, which then caused stress on Ryan Clark, whose strength is supporting Troy, supporting the run and cleaning up receivers who have caught balls in front of the first down sticks. Shadowing receivers across an open field, is not what the Steelers defense had in mind for him. All this makes up the recipe for opponents to do as they pleased and Steelers seeing an explosive plays against at rate we haven’t seen before. …..

    and one last point. The offensive woes during the 2-6 stretch gave the defense zero opportunities to play with a lead. Depending on the opposition, LeBeau often lets the dogs loose when having a lead that needs fortified by a turn over or a sack to achieve favorable field position and allow the offense to close a game out. Bottom line ….the offense is not absolved by any stretch. They have a hand in it also. Defensive dominance and time of possession work hand in hand. The Steelers had an atrocious time of possession and productivity stretch during the first half of last season. Okay……….I’m done. 🙂