One week after turning in a rock solid performance in the tackling department in an upset win over the Buffalo Bills, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense crashed to earth on Sunday at Heinz Field against the visiting Las Vegas Raiders, turning in a rather dreadful performance overall in the tackling department.
As defensive coordinator Keith Butler says consistently, mental mistakes and missed tackles get you beat on defense. That happened quite a bit on Sunday as the Steelers’ defense found itself down key defenders, leading to mental mistakes and a handful of missed tackles, ultimately proving the different in the 26-17 loss at Heinz Field.
Let’s dive into the missed tackles report for Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Total missed tackles vs. Raiders — 11
- Robert Spillane — 3 (one on special teams)
- Cameron Sutton — 2
- James Pierre – 1
- Minkah Fitzpatrick — 1
- Joe Schobert — 1
- Tre Norwood — 1
- Arthur Maulet — 1 (special teams)
- Chris Wormley — 1
Total missed tackles through two games – 16 (8.0 misses per game)
- Robert Spillane — 3 (one on special teams)(12 total tackles on 15 total attempts, 20% miss rate)
- Cameron Sutton – 2 (eight total tackles on 10 total attempts, 20% miss rate)
- Joe Schobert – 2 (16 total tackles on 18 total attempts, 11% miss rate)
- Minkah Fitzpatrick — 2 (16 total tackles on 18 total attempts, 11% miss rate)
- Devin Bush – 1 (10 tackles on 11 total attempts, 9.1% miss rate)
- Terrell Edmunds – 1 (11 total tackles on 12 total attempts, 8.3% miss rate)
- Joe Haden – 1 (five tackles on six total attempts, 16.6% miss rate)
- James Pierre – 1 (14 total tackles on 15 total attempts, 6.7% miss rate)
- Tre Norwood — 1 (seven total tackles on eight total attempts, 12.5% miss rate)
- Arthur Maulet — 1 (special teams) (three total tackles on four total attempts, 25% miss rate)
- Chris Wormley — 1 (two total tackles on three total attempts, 33.3% miss rate)
While I thought Robert Spillane was pretty solid on Sunday against the Raiders, going back through the tape multiple times for this report he was just missing far too many tackles. Did that have anything to do with it being his first game back? I don’t think so. He was around the football a lot, but he has to start finishing plays.
As for Cameron Sutton, he was again around the football a ton, but he missed one crucial tackle in the game that I’ll break down further below, while guys like James Pierre and Minkah Fitzpatrick also missed a tackle in a big spot, resulting in a chunk play for the Raiders.
Overall, the numbers through two games are pretty much on par with what I expected, especially with the miss rates. Though Joe Schobert has two misses, he is right around his career average of a 10% miss rate so far with the Steelers, while Terrell Edmunds continues his strong play in the tackling department, posting the second-lowest miss rate on the defense, just behind James Pierre, who is off to a fast start in the tackling department.
Let’s get to the tape.
The first miss of the game that I want to highlight comes from Pierre and Fitzpatrick.
Facing a second and 12, the Raiders throw a short curl to Hunter Renfrow designed to get some yardage back to set up a more manageable third down. Instead, Renfrow forces both Pierre and Fitzpatrick to miss, moving the chains. You simply can’t have this from two starting secondary players. Pierre has to take a better angle downhill to the catch point to try and make the stop, and Fitzpatrick can’t be this aggressive here, especially against a jitterbug like Renfrow.
The diminutive slot receiver does an excellent job setting up Fitzpatrick for the inside move. Fortunately for the Steelers, Cameron Heyward hustles his tail off, sprinting downfield to make the stop 15 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Later in the game, Cameron Sutton records his first of two missed tackles.
Trying defend the in-breaking route here for Las Vegas’ Henry Ruggs, Pierre is in trail technique against the speedy receiver. Sutton does a nice job settling and cutting off the in-breaking route. He’s right in line with Ruggs to make the stick and stop, but he hesitates, allowing Ruggs to work around him. In the process of losing Ruggs, Sutton takes out Pierre too, allowing Ruggs to get free for the big chunk play.
I don’t give Pierre a miss here despite having a hand on Ruggs’ jersey because he’s taken out by his own guy. Not his fault.
Finally, here is Sutton’s last miss of the game. It comes on the first play of the fourth quarter, this time against Las Vegas receiver Bryan Edwards.
This is as bad as it gets from Sutton. He backs off of Edwards right before the snap, allowing the easy completion with so much cushion.
He does a great job working downhill quickly to make contact and wrap up, but he doesn’t bring any power behind it, allowing Edwards to easily step out of the tackle attempt and move the chains. You simply can’t have this type of rep, especially in a 9-point game with the Steelers trying to get a stop and play the field position game as best as possible.
Offensively, the Steelers did their part on a putrid day at the office (at least on the scoreboard). The Steelers forced an astounding 19 missed tackles against the Raiders, winning the tackle battle by a +8 margin, one of the highest margins I’ve charted over the years.
Total forced misses vs. Raiders — 19
- Najee Harris — 8
- JuJu Smith-Schuster — 5
- Diontae Johnson — 4
- Ray-Ray McCloud — 2 (special teams)
Total forced misses through two weeks — 23 (11.5 forced misses per game)
- Najee Harris – 11
- JuJu Smith-Schuster – 6
- Diontae Johnson — 4
- Ray-Ray McCloud — 2 (special teams)
We all knew just how special Najee Harris was, but Sunday’s performance showed he can still be a play-maker even behind a rough offensive line that struggles to create any type of running room.
Of Harris’ eight forced missed tackles on Sunday, six of them came in the passing game, which shows you the Steelers need to get him much more involved in this area as an extension of the run game.
Early on, Harris made his mark, tossing Raiders’ hard-hitting safety Johnathan Abram with ease. What’s lost in that highlight though is Harris immediately made two more Raiders’ defenders miss along the sideline.
Take a look.
As for JuJu Smith-Schuster, he made two Raiders miss on his three-yard rushing touchdown, but it was his work on a third and eight that really stood out to me.
While I despite throwing bubble screens on third and eight with an offense that struggles to work the ball downfield, you can’t find many better players to throw short and run long at this point, as Smith-Schuster is a YAC monster.
Watch him break three tackles here and move the chains.
As I said on Twitter immediately after the play, JuJu is an incredible talent. I’ll never understand the hate he receives from the fanbase and some in the media. He’s a picture perfect Steeler on the field. So what that he enjoys himself on social media away from the actual action. Give me this type of player any day of the week.