2017 Offseason Questions: Should Tackling Be Top Concern On Defense?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Is there a bigger issue the defense faces this year than cleaning up the issues of missed tackles?

This is something that I only tangentially touched upon yesterday in an article about Ryan Shazier, but the Steelers defense has a tackling problem, and it’s one that has been developing for half a decade. During their reign in the 2000s, Pittsburgh was consistently among the surest tacklers in the league, but these days they would be lucky to be regarded as middle of the road.

Not all missed tackles are created equal, as some still manage to lead to a positive play for the defense, but there is no shortage of the bad kind when the Steelers play, and their missed tackles can and have led to big plays for their opponents. LeGarrette Blount’s bulldozing run in the playoffs was a disheartening moment.

So the question posed to you is this: are the tackling issues the biggest problem, above all others, facing the Steelers defense? If not the biggest, then it’s certainly up there. According to Pro Football Focus, Shazier was in the top five in missed tackles (though again, that needs to be qualified), and Stephon Tuitt was the worst offender at his position.

He wasn’t the only one, naturally, missing tackles, and that included everybody in their secondary, as well as Lawrence Timmons, though he is now gone. But is Vince Williams going to be a much more consistent tackler playing starter snaps?

The Steelers need to be able to get pressure on the quarterback more consistently. They need to cover their gaps against the run better. They need to cover better, both in off-man and in man coverage. They have both schematic and execution concerns.

And yet so many of their problems do trace back to simply not bringing the ball carrier down when they have the opportunity to do so. Football, it is said, is a game of blocking and tackling. They’re at a point at which they do the blocking pretty well. Now what about the tackling?

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