Taking on the Cincinnati Bengals in a pivotal AFC North clash on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers stepped up in a big way overall in the second half, led by a dominant defensive performance over the final two quarters, to pull off a 24-20 come-from-behind victory over the rival Bengals.
In the win, the Steelers defense turned in it’s lowest missed tackles performance of the season, showing that the young defensive group continues to get better and better as the season progresses.
Missed Tackles vs. Bengals — 5
Ryan Shazier — 1
Lawrence Timmons — 1
Javon Hargrave — 1
Ross Cockrell — 1
Sean Davis — 1
Total Missed Tackles through 15 weeks (14 games): 147 (10.5 missed tackles per game)
Ryan Shazier — 18
Sean Davis — 15
Mike Mitchell — 13
Stephon Tuitt — 13
William Gay — 12
Artie Burns — 11
Lawrence Timmons — 10
Ross Cockrell — 8
Vince Williams — 7
Robert Golden — 4
Jarvis Jones — 3
Anthony Chickillo — 3
James Harrison — 3
Javon Hargrave — 3
Cameron Heyward — 2
Bud Dupree — 2
Arthur Moats — 1
LJ Fort — 1
Jordan Dangerfield — 1
Ricardo Mathews — 1
Daniel McCullers — 1
LT Walton — 1
Special Teams Missed Tackles in 2016 — 9
Cobi Hamilton — 2
Tyler Matakevich — 2
Jordan Dangerfield — 2
Steven Johnson — 1
Sammie Coates — 1
Justin Gilbert — 1
Shamarko Thomas — 1
Roosevelt Nix — 1
Artie Burns — 1
Al-Hajj Shabazz — 1
Let’s start with the positives: five missed tackles is a tremendous number for the Steelers defense to turn in, considering how the Bengals moved up and down the field on them in the first half to a tune of 20 points.
Overall, Pittsburgh was very sound at wrapping up and making the correct play instead of going for the big body blows in a big rivalry matchup.
Although Ryan Shazier continues to miss tackles here and there, he’s been arguably the best defender on this defense for the last seven weeks. There’s no telling where this unit is at without him.
Same goes for Lawrence Timmons, who had arguably his best all-around game on Sunday against the Bengals.
As for Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave, the two rookies have been really solid since the bye week, stepping up to play major roles for an improving defense, while Ross Cockrell continues to be very steady on the outside.
Let’s get to the missed tackles.
On this run by Jeremy Hill early in the first quarter on the Bengals’ opening drive, Shazier does a tremendous job of reading his keys before firing downhill to knife into the backfield.
Although he does take a slight nudge from left guard Clint Boling as he gets into the backfield, Shazier is in great position to make a play. That being said though, often times his speed getting into the backfield can be a boon to his tackle attempt, which is what happens here and Hill is able to slide to his left ever so slightly, allowing Shazier to fly by for the missed tackle.
At the snap, Javon Hargrave and Bud Dupree pull off a nice stunt, allowing Hargrave to get to the edge against Eric Winston, leaving Dupree with a mismatch against guard Kevin Zeitler.
Although the stunt should have worked for Dupree more than Hargrave, the rookie defensive tackle has a clean shot at Andy Dalton, who steps up and sideways in the pocket right into Hargrave’s bubble.
However, Dalton — with an absurd display of athleticism — is somehow able to spin out of Hargrave’s tackle attempt before getting out of the pocket to complete a pass to Brandon LaFell.
I’m sure this is a play Hargrave would like to redo so as to add to his sack total on the year.
On this run late in the third quarter as the Bengals were driving for a field goal following a 72-yard kickoff return by rookie Alex Erickson, Cincinnati turned to shifty running back Rex Burkhead on the ground to change up the pace.
With his first carry of the drive, Burkhead has a big hole to run through between center and guard. Waiting for Burkhead though is Davis, who is playing up near the line of scrimmage in the box.
From the coach’s film, it appears as if Davis is slow to close down on the down-blocking tight end, and by doing so allows Burkhead to avoid his tackle attempt and nearly pick up a first down.
By missing the tackle, Davis nearly costs the Steelers a touchdown, but thankfully Mike Mitchell is able to make the stop short of the first down, allowing the Steelers to ultimately hold the Bengals to just a field goal later in the drive in what would amount to their final points of the game.