The Chicago Bears ran wild over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Soldier Field and a lot of their rushing yardage came via the outside zone stretch play. Because of that, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked during his Tuesday press conference if he thought his defense had any trouble setting the edge during Sunday’s game.
“You know, not consistently, but at times,” Tomlin said. “There’s going to be a hole or two from time to time, particularly when you’re as well-prepared as those guys, and they were. I tip my cap to Coach [John] Fox and those guys. They had a great plan. So, there’s going to be a big hole from time to time, usually those plays are minimized with good tackling. Those are the 6 to 8 to 11 yard gains that you might see in the running game from time to time.
“Really, our biggest issue is those instances, there were several of those instances we weren’t good tacklers. Those holes became field-flipping plays, 26-yard gains, 40-yard gains, and so forth. So it was a combination of us being a little bit more solid on the perimeter at times, good schematics by them, and when those two things occurred, we didn’t do a good job of tackling. And sometimes good open-grass tackling covers up a lot of things and there were some missed tackles on some of those breakout plays.”
Since Sunday’s game ended, Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, who played all of three defensive snaps against the Bears, was asked if he thinks he can still effectively set the edge against outside zone stretch plays.
“I could do that [set the edge] when I’m 60,” Harrison said, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Because of Harrison’s comments and combined with the fact he has a long history of playing well against the run and especially when it comes to outside zone plays, Tomlin was asked Tuesday if he gave any thought to using the veteran outside linebacker in that role Sunday against the Bears.
“I don’t know if it was specifically the outside linebacker position that was viewed as an issue in that football game and James speaks to the outside linebacker position,” Tomlin said. “Largely, we’ve got to do a better job of minimizing the run. I’m not singling out any position and I think a discussion about his participation, or non participation, does that and I don’t want to lead perception in any wild directions, man. Perception’s been led in enough wild directions in recent days, hasn’t it?”
In short, Tomlin made it sound like outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, who started at right outside linebacker against the Bears in place of the injured T.J. Watt, wasn’t the weak link on Sunday when it came to outside zone running plays to his side of the field. In my honest opinion, the all-22 tape backs this up. Was Chickillo perfect? Absolutely not, but it looked to me like most of the issues on outside zone runs to the right side of the Steelers defenses in Sunday’s game were mostly related to the play of the team’s inside linebackers, defensive backs and overall schematics.