While he has made a few splash plays so far this season, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Antwon Blake hasn’t made enough of them. In fact, the former undrafted free agent is nowhere close to being the physical and reliable tackler he was last season in his limited playing time.
While Blake has been playing with a broken thumb for most of this season, he’s not using it as an excuse for him missing so many tackles this year. 23, to be exact, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I am not used to missing a lot of tackles, and I have been missing tackles,” Blake said Wednesday, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I am not going to blame it on injuries. I’ve been playing hurt for a long time, and I am not going to sit here and blame my play on injuries.
“It is frustrating being known as one of the most physical corners to going out there and missing tackles.”
In Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Blake’s poor coverage and subsequent missed tackle on wide receiver Doug Baldwin effectively lost his team the game. The result of the play was an 80-yard touchdown on 3rd down and 10 with 2:14 left in the fourth quarter. Had either Blake or safety Mike Mitchell been able to tackle Baldwin, the Steelers still may have had a chance to make three more stops and get the football back with an opportunity for their offense to mount one last drive for a game-winning field goal.
“If I’m out there on the grass, I got to perform…If I can’t play then I shouldn’t be out there,” Blake reportedly said, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
We’ll find out this coming Sunday night if Blake is put back out on the grass by head coach Mike Tomlin when the Steelers host the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field. Tomlin hinted on Tuesday that cornerback Brandon Boykin might play in the nickel in that game with veteran William Gay shifting outside and Ross Cockrell likely manning the other side in the team’s defensive sub package. If that indeed winds up happening, Blake might very well only see the field during the game on special teams.
It’s hard to imagine that if given the opportunity to continue playing on defense that Blake will be able to improve his play, and more specifically, his tackling. At 6-5, the Steelers have little to no margin for error when it comes to losses. Physicality and sure tacking has been a prime requisites for Steelers cornerbacks for a long time now due to the style of defense that they play, and as of right now, Blake is lacking tremendously in both of those areas. It’s obvious that he knows it and based on his comments made Tuesday, Tomlin knows it as well. The only question that remains at this point is whether or not Tomlin will actually tackle the problem.