Poor Linebacker Play In 2011 Likely Culprit For Inflated Tackles For Ryan Clark

Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Ryan Clark had a great statistical season last year as far as tackles go. He was in on 100 tackles total with 71 credited to him as being of the solo variety, where he was the primary, or in some cases, the only player involved in making the stop. Both of those numbers were career highs for Clark, but that is not necessarily such a good thing though.

The Steelers run defense struggled at times last year and allowed 4.0 yards per carry on the season. Clark recorded 33 of his 71 solo tackles last year against the run according to my stats and on those plays the defense allowed  6.1 yards per carry. Of those 33 plays, 21 were deemed successful for the offense. A play is deemed successful when the following occurs: 40% of yards-to-go are gained on 1st down; 60% of yards-to-go on 2nd down; or 100% of yards-to-go on 3rd & 4th down. So basically 64% of those 33 plays were successful that Clark was relied upon to make the primary stop. 9 of those 33 plays resulted in first downs and 6 of them went for 10 yards or more.

22 of the assist that Clark had last season were also against the run and they equated to a 5.4 yards per carry on those plays with 50% of them deemed successful and 6 of them resulting in first downs. 2 of the 22 went for 20 yards or more.

So in total Clark was involved in 55 tackles against the run, which was 55% of his total tackles. Now Clark is not to blame here, in fact he should be lauded for being such a willing tackler and helpful in run support. Where the problem mostly lies is that Clark should not be relied upon so much to be the primary tackler. Teams rushed 399 times against the Steelers in 2011 and Clark was 6 solo tackles shy of recording solos on 10% of all those rushes.

Buck linebacker James Farrior was credited with just 41 solo tackles against the run in 2011 with 22 of those running plays being deemed successful by the offense. Farrior was only involved in 50 rushing tackles in total in 2011. Lawrence Timmons, who did see quite a bit of time at outside linebacker in 2011 because of injuries, was in on 57 total run tackles with just 37 of them being solo. Timmons had 55 solos against the run in 2010 as teams rushed a total of 333 times against the Steelers. Add in another 27 assist against the run for Timmons in 2010 and he was involved in 25% of the rushes against the Steelers that season in which he recorded.135 total tackles. Timmons had just 93 total tackles in 2011, roughly a third less than 2010.

With Farrior now gone and both LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison back healthy on the outside, Timmons will get to go back to his natural MACK position, hopefully to stay. Larry Foote now takes over at the BUCK position with Farrior now gone and hopefully this all shores up the linebacker group to better play the run and should result in the defense not having to rely so much on Clark to make primary run stops.

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