The Pittsburgh Steelers defense turned in one of the best performances in recent memory under Keith Butler Sunday afternoon against the New England Patriots.
Adding onto that impressive performance was the job the Steelers did in the tackling department, turning in yet another great performance, which has become normal for the defense this season.
Against the Patriots, Pittsburgh missed just 3 tackles against a team that thrives in the short passing game designed to get the ball to playmakers in space. The last couple of years, that would have spelled major trouble for the Steelers defense. Not this year.
Let’s take a look at the Week 15 missed tackles report against the Patriots.
Total missed tackles vs. Patriots — 3
Joe Haden – 2
Mike Hilton – 1
Total missed tackles through 15 weeks (14 games) — 118 (8.42 misses per game)
Sean Davis – 17 (one on special teams)
TJ Watt – 11
Joe Haden – 11
Terrell Edmunds – 10
Mike Hilton – 8 (one on special teams)
Vince Williams – 7
Bud Dupree – 5 (two on sack attempts)
LJ Fort – 5
Stephon Tuitt — 4
Cam Sutton – 4 (one on special teams)
Coty Sensabaugh – 4
Tyler Matakevich – 4 (two on special teams)
Artie Burns — 3
Anthony Chickillo – 3 (one on special teams)
Jon Bostic – 3
Roosevelt Nix – 3 (all three on special teams)
Tyson Alualu – 3
Jordan Dangerfield – 3 (two on special teams)
Cam Heyward – 2
Darrius Heyward-Bey – 2 (both on special teams)
Daniel McCullers – 2
Nat Berhe – 1
Javon Hargrave – 1
Marcus Allen – 1
Brian Allen – 1 (special teams)
Two of the Steelers’ top tacklers in the game on Sunday ended up missing the three total tackles in the loss. Out of a combined 22 tackle attempts, Joe Haden and Mike Hilton had a tackling percentage of 86.3 percent. I’ll take that from a secondary that has largely struggled all season to tackle the ball carrier.
Haden had a terrific game for the Steelers, but a lot of his tackles came after the catch down the field. Hilton came off the bench and was a terror for the Steelers, flying sideline to sideline to make plays.
With the amount of snaps they were on the field and how often they were around the football, misses are going to happen.
Let’s take a look.
Late in the first half on third down, the Patriots run a crossing route for Cordarelle Patterson left to right across the formation with Haden in the trail technique. Tom Brady does a nice job of hitting Patterson in stride, but after that Haden overruns Patterson ever so slightly, allowing the elusive receiver to shed his tackle attempt.
Ironically, Hilton is there to clean it up just enough, causing Patterson to be ruled down short of the first down marker after review, forcing the Patriots to punt the football away to the Steelers.
Late in the third quarter, in the midst of a long Patriots drive that chewed up a ton of yardage on the ground, Hilton records his lone miss of the game.
On a 2nd and 8 from the Steelers’ 29-yard line, Rex Burkhead rips off a 9-yard run between the right guard and tackle, right past Hilton, who seems to scrape over just a bit too much, causing him to be slightly out of position, leading to a small slip and a missed arm tackle of Burkhead’s legs. Fortunately for Hilton, the Steelers defense is right there to clean up the miss and eventually buckled down to hold the Patriots to a field goal on the possession.
Wrapping up misses by the Steelers, this final miss by Haden came on the first play of the second half. I know I’m going backwards here a bit, but this was honestly the worst miss of the three, so I wanted to highlight it last.
As a run defender, Haden simply isn’t good coming up and sticking his face in the fan. He doesn’t much like contact and routinely goes low for stops like this without bringing much force.
Here against Sony Michel in space, Haden goes low on the rookie running back. Michel steps right through Haden’s right shoulder, picking up additional yardage after the forced miss. Many of Haden’s 11 misses have come on plays like this.
Offensively, the Steelers forced New England into six missed tackles, meaning Pittsburgh won the missed tackles battle with a +3 margin.
Total forced missed tackles vs. New England – 6
Jaylen Samuels – 3
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 1
Stevan Ridley – 1
James Washington – 1
Total forced misses through 15 weeks (14 games) – 134 (9.57 forced misses per game)
James Conner — 62
Antonio Brown — 15
Ryan Switzer — 15
Vance McDonald — 15
Jaylen Samuels – 8
Stevan Ridley – 5
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 5
Ben Roethlisberger — 3
James Washington — 2
Xavier Grimble — 1
Jaylen Samuels – 1
Jesse James – 1
James Washington had a breakout game for the Steelers, finishing with three catches for 65 yards on the day.
Twenty-four of Washington’s 65 yards came on this catch-and-run midway through the third quarter, which also happened to be two plays after his season-long 32-yard catch down the right sideline over Devin McCourty.
On Washington’s 24-yard catch and run, he is able to run through McCourty’s tackle attempt, allowing him to pick up an additional 19 yards after the catch.