2021 South Side Questions: Will Tackling Be Cleaned Up For Tonight’s Game?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Will the defense have cleaned up the tackling after last week’s game?

Given the way that the Steelers’ defense played through most of the game on Sunday last week against a Detroit Lions team who hadn’t won a game all season, it’s hard to imagine that same unit coming out here tonight and having a prayer against the Los Angeles Chargers, who, let’s say, have a much more potent offense than the Lions.

Considering the fact that Detroit hardly had a passing threat because Jared Goff injured his hand, their run defense was truly abominable, routinely facing run-heavy packages and simply being unable to counter it.

The reasons for that are numerous, and yes, coaching and defensive playcalling factor into that equation, but the bottom line is that bad tackling exacerbated and amplified every other crack in their armor.

Could the sloppy weather conditions have contributed to their poor tackling? Of course. Do you want to operate under the assumption that better weather will cure all the tackling problems—assuming that you get to play in better weather in the first place? Absolutely not.

Head coach Mike Tomlin emphasized that this would be a week of fundamentals in practice, not just for the defense, but for both sides of the ball. One would have to hope that a clean week of fundamental football would produce better results in some of the most basic elements of the game, but the night will have to bear that out.

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