While the Pittsburgh Steelers’ tackling was dreadful on Sunday, the worst we’ve seen probably since the 8-8 seasons of 2012-13, it was arguably not the biggest issue they had that day—which was failing to properly adjust their run fits when the Detroit Lions shifted. The poor tackling merely exacerbated the issue, which they finally cleaned up late in the game.
Still, there’s never a good time to tackle poorly, and head coach Mike Tomlin knows that. “There was enough ugliness on the tape in terms of missed tackles and explosion runs that that needs to have our attention as we go to work this week”, he told reporters yesterday, detailing how they can work that in-season without live tackling:
It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to put pads on and tackle three days this week and things of that nature. There are many ways to improve and focus on the tackling component of preparation. We do it every single day and every time the ball is snapped because a major component of tackling is your approach: the speed in which you approach the ball carrier, long stride, short stride, the angle in which you approach them, and your knowledge of your fit relative to that tackle and others in pursuit. So, it’s not just the functional art of tackling but it’s the approach, it’s the knowledge of pursuing defenders and your fit within it. It’s speed. It’s the length of strides. We’re just gonna really have a good fundamental week in that regard. It’s not that we’ve had bad practices, quite frankly, in that regard. But sometimes when you have a less than desired result, it really ratchets you down and makes you focus on some things that we carry a candle for anyway.
It is often the case that tackling serves as an additive to a bitter defensive recipe. The missed tackles turn small problems into big problems, amplifying every mistake because you fail to clean up the mess at the first opportunity. That’s how you end up allowing multiple explosive-play touchdown runs after missing your run fits once a big back is running through your secondary.
That is in no way to make light of the very real issue of the bad tackling we’ve seen lately, though intermittently. The Steelers haven’t been routinely shaky in this area, but when they’ve been bad, they’ve been awful, as they were against Detroit and Seattle.
Emphasizing fundamentals after a week of bad tackling seems appropriate, though we’ll see what effect it ultimately has on the product on the field. There were certainly some deficiencies in adherence to fundamentals in what we saw from the tackling on Sunday, but as Tomlin said, there’s more that goes into it than that.
And really, the angles, the approach that he talked about, are just as important. Sometimes lapses in that area even puts you in a position where you don’t even get a tackle attempt because you end up taking yourself out of the play. You don’t get a missed tackle, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s even worse.