There was a time when any more than a modest handful of missed tackles was a sloppy game for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense under Dick LeBeau. But that’s now considered a good day at the office, and Sunday night’s victory over the Carolina Panthers was just such a day.
Missed tackles have been plaguing this Steelers defense, not just this year, but for the last couple years, with the 2013 season being especially egregious. Multiple players missed double-digit tackles during the year all by themselves.
That was certainly a problem through the first two games of this season as well. Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons in particular had a rough go of it, and, according to Pro Football Focus, missed nine tackles between the first two games. My own observations from the first two games corroborate that.
As a team, the Steelers missed double-digit tackles in each of the first two games, many of them leading to significant yards-after-contact opportunities that their opponents took advantage of.
There was little of that this week against the Panthers. In fact, the tackling during the first half of the game fell not far short of excellent.
A quick glance through the tape revealed no obvious missed tackles; perhaps one behind the line of scrimmage that netted a yard or two after contact, if memory serves.
Admittedly, the tackling in the second half did fall short of those lofty standards, though it’s worth noting that neither touchdown, each an explosive play, was the result of a missed tackle. The first one was perhaps due to a poor angle, but we’re talking about tackling at the moment.
On the first play of the second half, the Steelers missed a couple of tackles on a rush off right guard by Jonathan Stewart. Cam Thomas was the first to miss as he peeled off a blocker. The back also managed to run by Ryan Shazier, and gaining about 15 yards after contact in all on the play.
Stewart also managed to break a desperate William Gay tackle a few plays into the Panthers’ next drive for about five yards after contact, though he was injured on the play.
On the first play of Carolina’s third drive of the half, Jason Worilds missed the initial tackle on tight end Greg Olsen, which he caught nine yards from the line of scrimmage on first down. He gained four yards after contact for a first down.
Late in the fourth quarter, Mike Tolbert was able to get past Sean Spence with a stiff-arm on a second and one pass at the line of scrimmage that allowed him six yards after contact and a first down.
That was, by and large, the extent of the damage allowed by the Steelers’ missed tackles of the night. I may have missed one or two here and there, but the broader point is to emphasize how solid the tackling—perhaps not necessarily the angles—was throughout the night.
This is an especially pertinent topic given how frequently it has been an uphill battle for the Steelers in recent years. Missed tackles have been hurting them on defense more than usual over the last two seasons. Hopefully this is a sign that fundamental tackling is once again becoming a hallmark of this unit.