Steelers Leading NFL In Missed Tackles

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is leading or near tops in the league in tons of categories this year. But they’re leading in one they wish they didn’t claim. And according to Pro Football Focus, the Steelers come in first place with 77 misses on the season.

They tweeted out this graphic over the weekend.

Two caveats to this. This was tweeted out before yesterday’s slate of games so I’m not 100% sure how the numbers look right now (the Chargers were also on a bye, meaning they’re definitely staying at 73). Either way, the Steelers are still at the bottom or close to it.

And our Josh Carney pens his weekly missed tackles counter. Excluding special teams, he has the Steelers down for 93 so there is clearly a discrepancy (we still stand by our numbers). The main reason why I’m passing this graphic along is PFF obviously tracks things we don’t – the rest of the league. The missed tackles stat loses some meaning without being able to compare it to other teams. And now we have some information. It ain’t pretty for Pittsburgh.

Missed tackles have certainly reared its ugly head throughout the year. The Chicago Bears performance was rock bottom, 23 of them, and while things have evened out since, it hasn’t been perfect. They missed 15 a week ago against the Detroit Lions.

Ryan Shazier, in part due to how many plays his athleticism gets involved in, leads the Steelers with 17 misses. No one else has even cracked double-digits. He also led the team last year with 27. Sean Davis is in second place in 2017, just as he was as a rookie, then finishing with 19.

Mike Mitchell, despite the flack he gets for being a poor tackler has one of the lowest missed tackle rates with just four on the season. He had 16 a year ago.

As the Steelers march into the second half of the year, and probably the playoffs, it’s one defensive number they must reduce.

Check out our friend Six Rings Of Steel over on Youtube. He’s as big a Steelers’ fan as they come and makes awesome videos. You can also follow him on Twitter here. 

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Ichabod

    If no one else has double digits, then they aren’t counting tackles avoided (A.Burns)

  • Intense Camel

    Imagine how good this defense would be if they just made half of those tackles.

  • falconsaftey43

    yeah, “missed tackles” doesn’t tell the whole story for sure. It doesn’t account for guys like Shazier who are almost in position to make a lot of tackles that other guys wouldn’t get anywhere near. It also doesn’t account for guys like Burns who should have a lot more tackle attempts but either just does nothing, or is so out of position it doesn’t register.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Seems Burns is so far out of position, they aren’t counting his as misses? There have been a number of tackles he should have made that didn’t show up as a miss for him.

    Although last week, he did have a couple of tackles he should have made and did.

  • Smitty 6788

    Not surprised I scream at the tv each week bc of missed tackles lol.. Butler needs to emphasize this with his unit. Its a serious problem imo..

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m not sure how much this stat really says.
    They do have a poor yards per carry stat at 26th in the league (but we also know that’s largely due to a few really long runs). Overall, their yards per play is 5th best. Their net yards per pass attempt is 2nd, and perhaps the best measure of how well they are tackling (at least in the secondary) is yards per completion, which is 2nd best. I’m not sure how to reconcile being really good at limiting the amount of yards gained on a play, and supposedly missing the most tackles in the league (especially when they have the .28th fewest total defensive plays).

  • JNick

    The issue is Tomlin emphasizes hitting from training camp on and not tackling. You see it in the mentality and play of his guys. You hear about it all training camp. Big hitters tend to miss tackles. He needs to approach this from a fundamentally different way.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Missed tackles are very subjective, so obviously PFF is letting some things go. An example would be Shazier flying in just like Polamalu used to do, looking like a missile. I contend that those should not be counted as missed tackles. He is trying to blow up the play, make the RB stop or change direction and if he miraculously also makes the tackle it’s a huge bonus. If not, the RB is forced to slow down, change direction and run straight into 3 or 4 pursuing defenders. That results in a good or great play as they can gang tackle the RB. Why would you charge him with a missed tackle. This is totally different from actually making contact with someone and not wrapping him up.

    To further confuse things you have someone like Artie Burns, who refuses to set the edge or get involved even when he is the closest defender. He just jockeys around until a LB or safety arrives to make the tackle. You can’t call those plays missed tackles, but everyone on the planet would like to kick him in the butt when he does that.

    The bottom line is that stats can skew the overall picture. A 90 yard run by Fournette certainly changes the average. Overall the Steelers D is definitely much improved over what we have seen in the past few years. There is more pressure on the QBs and much better on the back end. They could certainly tackle better as well. They are not as horrific as the numbers show, but need to improve as they need to be more consistent before the playoffs start.

  • LucasY59

    this has been a problem for quite awhile, I listed it as the D’s biggest weakness on the friday night 5, I like that the D has improved a lot, but this is the thing that will keep them from being a top ranked unit (but if they can figure it out, they would easily become one of the best in the league)

  • #7

    “This won’t fly against Tom Brady and the Patriots”

  • Chad Weiss

    This is the difference between them being a good defense and a great defense

  • Simon Cutts

    not surprised that the Seahawks are at the top. They have moved to rugby tackling which emphasizes getting the man on the ground. Steelers still living in the stone age of ‘setting the tone’ big hits. Way too many missed hits as a result. Does Mitchell etc really believe that they are going to intimidate professional ball players by flying around out of control.

  • letownia

    A missed tackle isn’t necessarily a bad thing- it can sometimes slow down the opponent enough for other defenders to get to the scene and finish the play. So I wonder if maybe it’s maybe not as bad as it sounds? Shazier is a great example of this. The only way he gets close to the carrier is by flying in like a bullet. Even if he misses, the carrier is slowed down enough for others to come in and cleanup

  • falconsaftey43

    I think you have to take this metric with a major grain of salt. Steelers are one of the worst missed tackle teams, but one of the best overall defenses in yards and points. Raiders tackle really well but are one of the worst overall defenses. Just not sure much can be gleaned from this stat.

  • Mike Lloyd

    Ha Ha ha!

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Well if there is any reason not to be worried it is that 2 of the top 3 tackling teams likely won’t even make the playoffs so it clearly isn’t that important lol.

    Despite that it is definitely something that needs cleaned up and can really put us over the top as a defense on the whole. A lot of the explosive plays come off of bad angles or poor tackling and that is the more worrisome number.

    Lastly I will just say that I have had some minor disagreements with Josh and think he has been a little too hard on some of our players so I would likely lean towards the PFF number but even with that, we are still bottom of the league without Josh being a the mean old guy that he is lol.

  • SfSteeler

    a crap consistency that should be delt with in camp…angles and wrapping up please!

  • Chris92021

    While I also hate missed tackles, I wonder how many of those missed tackles (especially by Ryan Shazier) were behind the line of scrimmage. I am going to guess at least 5 were behind the line of scrimmage and led to a loss. Might not have been a -6 but a -1 or -2 instead. Perhaps a new stat needs to be created: DMT, devastating missed tackles. You know, those missed tackles on 3rd downs that get converted and missed tackles that become touchdowns. Thankfully the Steelers won’t have high numbers in either of those.

  • hojo

    Though I’m no expert, I would think a missed tackles to made tackles ratio would be an interesting stat. A bit akin to the assist to turnover ratio for point guards in the NBA.

  • Zarbor

    Burns have got to be the worst tackler I have seen don a Steelers uniform. The problem with the miss tackles stat and Burns is that he has three issues.

    Tackles he should make that he doesn’t even attempt, tackles that really are hard to classify as tackles because he just grabs and hold on until someone else makes the tackle and then there are the flat out whiffs.

  • Jim Foles

    If our db’s are playing catch and tackle with the wr’s, then this makes sense, we allow them to catch more often, so we have more chances to screw up the tackle.

  • Zarbor

    Truth be told, I think Tomlin and crew aren’t even worried nor concerned about those stats as long as we win the game. People come on here repeating the same nonsense like winning cures all ills. It doesn’t. The better teams watch the film and exposes your weaknesses and no one does it better than Bellicheat.

    Tackling has been an issue for years and as much as Tomlin talk about it, we are still one of the worst if not the worst. That was unheard of back in days. It will raise its head in the playoffs or superbowl and come to bite us in the ****. Not sure why these guys can’t tackle.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    It’s obvious (to me) that the Steelers were much better tacklers under Bill Cowher than they are under Mike Tomlin. But the question is why?

    1) I believe it is partially due to the TYPE of players Tomiln drafts. He seeks speed. Priority number one. On offense and defense. There are plenty of defensive prospects coming out of college every year that are great tacklers. But it’s very rare to have outstanding tacklers that are also elite speed/quickness guys. At some point you have to make a choice of what STYLE of player you’re going to draft. And Tomlin would rather draft the Ryan Shaziers than the CJ Moselys.

    ( I’m not judging one way or the other. Because Cowher’s guys typically couldn’t cover well. )

    2) Even if these guys aren’t very good tacklers in college, they don’t seem to be getting better once they join our team. To me, this indicates Tomlin either doesn’t care about good tackling form, or he doesn’t know how to teach good tackling form, or he specifically teaches then to turn their shoulder rather than wrap up.

    3) One of the main reasons players don’t wrap up is because it’s harder on your body. You get bumped and bruised a lot less when you turn your shoulder and shield yourself. And unless your coach “demands” physicality, a lot of players will opt for the easy way out to protect their body.

    The answer is exactly what you’ve outlined. Tomlin has to start teaching better form and demanding better effort. And also seeking players who already have better habits.

  • David Henderson

    I would like to add that if they learned how to tackle that may help along with cutting down on the unsportsmanlike penaltys.

  • Sdale

    Exactly. It’s the difference between being a truly elite defense that won’t lose you a game and a defense that can lay an egg in an important game (playoffs).

  • hdogg48

    I saw the best tackling team in football…the Seahawks…give
    up a last minute 75 yard drive to Kirk Cousins yesterday…at home.

    The big play was a 40+ yard bomb that was overthrown
    and caught by a receiver I never heard of that laid
    out for it in spectacular fashion.

    The Hawks didn’t lose that game because of poor tackling..
    They lost it because of a play that is an incompletion
    90% of the time, and that Wilson just doesn’t make
    enough plays to be considered elite.

  • Cwallace

    Burns has 25 tackles, 22 solo..and doesn’t lead the team in missed tackles. Missed some big ones tho.

  • Ralph Wagner

    Another honer, now we know why they give up all that yardage. The defense can’t cover receivers and they can’t tackle. Problem identified, what will they do about it. Hmmmmm LOL

    Go Steelers

  • blue

    The boys can’t wrap a gift right now. Luckily tacking is a fixable problem, let’s work on technique and get it right for 2nd half of the season.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Burns has over 10 in my opinion.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Disagree. Shazier shouldn’t get a pass. Half the time he has 1 arm and the rb or receiver blows by him not affected whatsoever

  • Cwallace

    Good point. And you are right..and they made a living off of good tackling under Cohwer. The team he left with Tomlin were good tacklers. That’s probably why it pisses some of us off more is because its not commonplace for a Steelers defense to have so many missed tackles and im looking at the last five yrs. Would love to see the research on that.

  • ItsGroovyBaby

    Force out of bounds are most of those. He’s really not trying to get anyone on the ground.

  • LAD

    IMO for sure, the missed tackles numbers should be paired with the done tackles… If Mike Mitchel has 4 missed tackles and 20 tackles made (83.3%) and Shazier has 17 missed tackles and 50 tackles made (74.6%), then we have a clear parameter.