The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Tackling efficiency continues to be an area in need of improvement for the Steelers.
Explanation: Missed tackles have been one of the Steelers’ biggest issues on defense over the course of the past several years. They appeared to have made strides in that area last season, and according to some statisticians were among the teams with the fewest missed tackles in the league.
This remains a concern for two reasons more than any others. For one thing, some of their best tacklers from last season are no longer on the team. While Jon Bostic may not have been seen as an option worth retaining, he was a sure tackler more than anything else. So, too, was Morgan Burnett in spite of his other limitations.
Outside of that, the fact is that some of their most important defenders remain some of their worst tacklers. Sean Davis improved but still had a large number of missed tackles, and that’s even more important now that he’s at free safety. Joe Haden had a concerning number of misses as well, as did, surprisingly, T.J. Watt.
On the other hand, others like Stephon Tuitt and Mike Hilton made legitimately encouraging strides in the tackling efficiency last season in comparison to their earlier efforts, which is a big deal. There is reason to believe that Watt in particular, and perhaps Davis as well, will continue to get better. Haden is not historically a player who misses a ton of tackles either.
Incomers Steven Nelson and Mark Barron are more middle of the road in terms of their tackling efficiency, but they should be better positioned to be in control with the roles they’ll likely be asked to play in Pittsburgh.
We can also surmise that some improvement in teaching has been made in terms of tackling, and that comes from new coaches and new approaches.