While the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to stack a couple of wins heading into their bye week coming out of a three-game skid, it didn’t necessarily provide a great deal of confidence about the future. Whenever one area seemed to improve, another issue would crop up.
The most glaring issue coming into the bye was the utterly shoddy tackling that they put on display last Sunday against a Seattle Seahawks team that was without its starting quarterback and running back. It was particularly dreadful in the second half, and ultimately resulted in their being forced into overtime despite holding a two-score lead at the half.
“We don’t gloss past the problems and think they’re gonna disappear”, senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin said last week when he was asked about how they would address the tackling during the bye week. “What we did is, we always address things that show up, things that may show up later. And obviously we’re not tackling our own guys, so it’s my job to put together some drills to help them get a little closer, get in better position, so that we can make those tackles”.
While his emphasis was on the secondary, and indeed the tackling in the secondary has been a concern, the issues certainly are not exclusive to that area of the defense. According to Josh Carney’s missed tackles report for the last game, the secondary was indeed front and center, but the linebackers were an issue as well.
“It’s never a function of toughness here, because you can’t play DB in this league if you can’t tackle, so we’ve got to do some thing, and I’ll do some things drill-wise to help them feel more comfortable in the open field, get their feet on people so they can tackle and get them on the ground, because we have to do better”, Austin said.
So what exactly do you do during the season to address tackling when you can’t tackle? “You still need to practice fundamentals all the time”, defensive coordinator Keith Butler stressed, via transcript. “You can’t just exit those and go to something else and stuff like that”.
“You’ve got to pay attention to that, especially in an off week for us”, he continued. “The great thing about this off week is we won. If we were 2-4, it wouldn’t be no fun at all. But we won and we’re 3-3. The thing we’ve got to do is maintain the level we’re at and make sure that we can dadgum compete to get into the playoffs. We’ve got to do that”.
But yes, it’s the secondary in particular that has got to do a better job, and that is especially on Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick, ostensibly their two best players at the back end. Both of them are capable of making really good tackles, but the reality is they’ve been missing too many, and that’s not a one-year deal.