Missed Tackles Report: Steelers vs. Eagles

One week after turning in a surprisingly strong showing in the tackling department against the Dallas Cowboys, the Pittsburgh Steelers were again strong in the first official week of the preseason across the league, this time against the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field.

In fact, the Steelers missed just two total tackles on defense against the Eagles, which is outstanding. However, the Steelers were woeful on special teams in the tackling department, recording five misses overall, which won’t make Danny Smith too happy when reviewing the tape.

Overall, seven missed tackles against the Eagles and 12 missed tackles overall two weeks into the preseason is much better than even I could have anticipated.

Let’s take a look at this week’s missed tackles report and see where we’re at ahead of the August 27 game at Heinz Field against the Detroit Lions.

Total missed tackles vs. Eagles — 7

  • Justin Layne — 1 (special teams)
  • Miles Killebrew — 1 (special teams)
  • Derek Watt — 1 (special teams)
  • James Pierre — 1 (special teams)
  • Carlos Davis — 1 (special teams)
  • Isaiah Buggs — 1 
  • Ulysees Gilbert III — 1 

Total missed tackles (through two preseason games) — 12 (6.0 misses per game)

  • Ulysees Gilbert III — 2 (five total tackles on seven total attempts, 28.5% miss rate)
  • Isaiah Buggs — 2 (three total tackles on five total attempts, 40% miss rate)
  • Tre Norwood — 1 (two total tackles on three total attempts, 33.3 miss rate)
  • Marcus Allen — 1 (five total tackles on six total attempts, 16.6% miss rate)
  • Donovan Stiner — 1 (two total tackles on three total attempts, 33.3% miss rate)
  • Justin Layne — 1 (special teams)(six total tackles on seven attempts, 14.3% miss rate)
  • Miles Killebrew — 1 (special teams)(seven total tackles on eight total attempts, 12.5% miss rate)
  • Derek Watt — 1 (special teams)(zero total tackles on one total attempt, 100% miss rate)
  • James Pierre — 1 (special teams)(four total tackles on five total attempts, 20% miss rate)
  • Carlos Davis — 1 (special teams)(one total tackle on two total attempts, 50% miss rate)

Looking at the missed tackles performance against the Eagles and it’s starting to becoming a real problem for Ulysees Gilbert III and his ability to make this team out of training camp once again. Gilbert missed a tackle against the Cowboys on third down that was converted for a first down.

Against the Eagles, rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell caught a Texas route out of the backfield and showed off his strength to shrug off the high attempt from Gilbert near the line of scrimmage and ultimately move the chains on a first and 10 play.

This simply isn’t good enough from the third-year player. He appears to be going through the motions early in the rep, slowly taking Gainwell’s route out of the backfield and then gets caught off guard when Gainwell breaks it back inside into space.

Gilbert should be able to finish off tackles like this due to his size advantage to Gainwell, who is a diminutive scat-back type. Instead, Gilbert slides right off the high tackle attempt, allowing Gainwell to move the chains before Mark Gilbert wrestles him to the turf.

That’s two weeks in a row Gilbert has had an awful missed tackle. He’s going to have to show out on special teams to cement his spot on the 53-man roster because right now he’s on the wrong side of the bubble for me.

It wasn’t a great start to the night overall for the Steelers on special teams, as on the first kickoff both Justin Layne and Miles Killebrew recorded missed tackles on Eagles’ returner Quez Watkins down the right sideline.

Layne has to be better here using the sideline as an extra defender, especially in space like that. Regardless, he’s out there to make tackles and earn a roster spot, so that’s a rough whiff to see on tape right away. The same goes for Killebrew, who is a pretty consistent tackler.

He needs to use the sideline to his advantage and squeeze Watkins more there. Because he is slow to use the sideline as an extra defender, it allows Watkins to gain a step on him, causing Killebrew to go for an arm tackle and miss. Fortunately for the Steelers, they were able to shut the return down quickly as Marcus Allen and Gilbert close off the lanes. Also a quick shoutout to Anthony Johnson here, who does a great job turning Watkins back inside slightly while working on the block from Travis Fulgham.

I’m sure Danny Smith noticed that.

Elsewhere on special teams, Derek Watt and James Pierre whiffed on a Jordan Berry punt midway through the second quarter.

Watt was the first one down the field to close in on Jalen Reagor on the return. He does a nice job staying clean and getting down the field, but his angle and overall effort are lacking here as he tries to dive at Reagor’s feet, whiffing badly. We have to see better here from a guy who is paid to be a special teams ace.

The same goes for Pierre, who will likely be playing a ton of special teams once again in 2021. That’s a poor whiff from the second-year cornerback, who ducks his head and loses sight of what he’s trying to hit.

Finally, Isaiah Buggs missed his second tackle of the preseason, this one coming on a sack attempt of Eagles’ starting quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Buggs does a great job coming clean off of the stunt up front, but his angle is off coming upfield, allowing Hurts to slip outside of him and eventually throw the ball away while taking a big shot from Alex Highsmith.

I do wonder if Buggs was not expecting to come out of the stunt this clean, but he has to be much more balanced and aware of his depth and path to the quarterback.

Offensively, the Steelers had a great day in the forced missed tackles category, taking advantage of the Eagles playing in their first preseason game.

Philadelphia was sloppy, but the Steelers also ran hard and were determined in key instances, forcing 17 total misses from the Eagles, winning the battle with a +10 mark.

Total forced missed tackles vs. Eagles — 17

  • Najee Harris — 3
  • Diontae Johnson — 3
  • Anthony McFarland — 3
  • Jaylen Samuels — 2 
  • Tony Brooks-James — 2 
  • Mathew Sexton — 1
  • Trey Edmunds — 1 
  • Isaiah McKoy – 1 

Total forced misses (through two preseason games) — 25 (12.5 per game)

  • Anthony McFarland — 4
  • Najee Harris — 3
  • Diontae Johnson — 3 
  • Mathew Sexton — 3
  • Ray-Ray McCloud – 2
  • Kalen Ballage – 2
  • Jaylen Samuels — 2 
  • Tony Brooks-James — 2 
  • Joshua Dobbs – 1
  • Trey Edmunds — 1 
  • Isaiah McKoy – 1 

Najee Harris was as advertised in Thursday’s game, showing off his power and ability to make defenders miss, which will be a much-needed skillset behind a rebuilt Steelers’ offensive line.

On his second and final recorded carry of the game (other two carries wiped out due to holding penalties), Harris made two Eagles defenders miss in the backfield before churning downhill to pick up four yards on the play, accounting for a successful run.

It was also great to see running backs such as Anthony McFarland and Jaylen Samuels forcing misses on the night. McFarland’s effort on the touchdown run was outstanding to see from a guy poised for a big leap in 2021, while Samuels made plays left and right Thursday as he tries to hold down a roster spot out of camp.

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