For two straight weeks, one of the biggest issues plaguing the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been a seeming inability to tackle the ball carrier, whether it was either a result of missing a hole or missing a tackle.
Although Cortez Allen has given him a run for his money, no individual player has been more susceptible to these issues an eighth of the way into the season than the signal caller of the defense, Lawrence Timmons.
In the season opener, he missed a few tackles, but his biggest issue was actually not getting to the tackles in the first place. Time and time again, he overran plays and took himself out of position to make a tackle.
That was less of a concern last week against the Baltimore Ravens, but he did miss several tackles. Pro Football Focus has him at five missed tackles, and that sounds about right to me after reviewing the tape.
Four of those missed tackles came against the passing game, trying to bring down players such as Steve Smith, rather than running backs. He actually played a fairly strong game in run support, making several stops.
But his performance in coverage, or more specifically tackling the catch, left much to be desired as he flailed past receiver after receiver.
Eventually, rookie Ryan Shazier should play a more prominent role in drawing such coverage assignments, which should take some of the burden off the veteran inside linebacker. But right now, Shazier is struggling on his own just to be where he’s supposed to be.
I broke down some of Timmons’ many miscues from the season opener at home against the Cleveland Browns last week, and I may do the same for his many whiffs that led to yards after the catch against the Ravens.
But me breaking it down isn’t going to change anything. The Steelers need Timmons to be a leader by example as well as a leader by word this season.
There have been many stretches throughout his career during which he has looked like the best defender the Steelers have on the team, and it wouldn’t be far from the truth.
His performance on the field through the first two weeks of the season has not been living up to that standard by any means, and it needs to change soon.
How much of it is playing as the buck linebacker, or playing next to a rookie, or whatever else might be the cause, I can’t fully say, but it certainly needs to improve, and he’s not the only one.