You can talk and talk and talk all you want until your throat becomes hoarse, but no amount of vocalization is going to get you to bring another human being to the ground any easier than before. The Pittsburgh Steelers have done a lot of talking about the necessity of improving their performance in the area of tackling this year, but the results have been lacking, to say the least.
The defensive effort through two preseason games has already featured a number of missed tackles, including those in prominent situations that have resulted in big plays. A whiff of a sack attempt against the Green Bay Packers, for example, led to a scrambling touchdown. In fact, I can think of three touchdowns off the top of my head that were scored through the first two games after a rusher whiffed on a pass rush.
“A lot of it is want to”, Joe Haden told the team’s website about what it takes to be a good tackler. Inside linebacker Vince Williams said the same thing. “It’s a will and a want to. Football is a physical game. You have to want to go out there and make tackles”.
Williams was optimistic, though. “Just looking at how good we were at defense despite how bad we were at tackling speaks volumes. If we could pick the tackling up we could be a No. 1 defense”, he said. Though he added, “no question we have to tackle better”.
Haden, entering his second season with the team, sees the work that goes in, but realizes that the results haven’t always been there yet. “We do a lot of drills in individuals, wrapping up, keeping our eyes up, hands around, wrap tackle”, he said. “Not just dive at people’s legs. We drive it out a lot. In our 11-on-11s we make sure we end with it. Even if you are not going to take him to the ground, get in position, back hip, get yourself in position to make the tackle. We always finish at the ball”.
Teresa Varley wrote that one of the drivers of the emphasis on tackling is new defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, who was hired as a professional with a reputation for somebody who focuses on the fundamentals of the game, including tackling. And he has relied upon his veterans to set the stage for the rest of the team.
“The thing with me, Cam, guys like that we have to lead by example. All of the drill work we are doing, I am making sure I am at the front of the line, finishing all of the tackle drills, making sure I am wrapping, making sure I am using the proper technique”, Haden said.
“In 11-on-11, making sure I am running to the ball, tagging off on the low hip. When we have the live tackling you have to get him on the ground and show him what you can do”.