Sunday’s tie against the Detroit Lions was one of the sloppiest games the Pittsburgh Steelers have played in the last few years, and it had everything to do with the tackling.
So much so, in fact, that Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin called out the display of tackling, or lack thereof, after the game, as did a number of other players including Cameron Heyward and Joe Schobert.
As I do every week, I dove back into the tape to chart the missed tackles against the Lions. Much like the performance on Sunday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks just a few weeks ago, the Steelers were downright dreadful in the tackling department, leading to the Lions running all over them, eventually forcing a tie.
Though it wasn’t a historic number of missed tackles like the Seahawks’ game was, it was a rather high number in a game in which conditions were poor and the talent difference was noticeable.
Let’s dive in.
Total missed tackles vs. Lions — 18
- Minkah Fitzpatrick – 4
- Miles Killebrew – 2
- Devin Bush – 2
- Alex Highsmith – 2
- Terrell Edmunds – 1
- T.J. Watt – 1
- Cameron Heyward – 1
- Cameron Sutton – 1
- Henry Mondeaux – 1
- Derrick Tuzska – 1
- Joe Schobert – 1
- Isaiah Buggs – 1
Total missed tackles through nine games – 98 (10.8 misses per game)
- Minkah Fitzpatrick — 13 (64 total tackles on 77 total attempts, 16.8% miss rate)
- Joe Haden – 9 (24 tackles on 33 total attempts, 27.27% miss rate)
- Cameron Sutton – 8 (20 total tackles on 28 total attempts, 28.5% miss rate)
- Terrell Edmunds – 6 (47 total tackles on 53 total attempts, 11.3% miss rate)
- Joe Schobert – 6 (63 total tackles on 69 total attempts, 8.7% miss rate)
- Alex Highsmith — 6 (39 total tackles on 45 total attempts, 13.3% miss rate)
- Devin Bush – 6 (41 tackles on 47 total attempts, 12.7% miss rate)
- Robert Spillane — 5 (two on special teams)(22 total tackles on 27 total attempts, 18.5% miss rate)
- T.J. Watt — 4 (one on sack attempt) (39 total tackles on 43 total attempts, 9.3% miss rate)
- Isaiah Buggs – 4 (16 total tackles on 20 total attempts, 20% miss rate)
- Tre Norwood — 3 (one on special teams) (19 total tackles on 22 total attempts, 13.6% miss rate)
- Miles Killebrew — 3 (special teams) (six total tackles on nine total attempt, 33.3% miss rate)
- Melvin Ingram — 3 (10 total tackles on 13 total attempts, 23.1% miss rate)
- Arthur Maulet — 3 (one on special teams) (22 total tackles on 25 total attempts, 12% miss rate)
- Chris Wormley — 3 (one on sack attempt) (24 total tackles on 27 total attempts, 11.1% miss rate)
- Cameron Heyward — 2 (47 total tackles on 49 total attempts, 4.1% miss rate)
- Marcus Allen — 2 (special teams) (one total tackles on three total attempts, 33.3% miss rate)
- Justin Layne – 2 (two on special teams) (nine total tackles on 11 total attempts, 18.1% miss rate)
- James Pierre – 2 (one on special teams) (35 total tackles on 37 total attempts, 5.4% miss rate)
- Henry Mondeaux — 2 (five total tackles on seven total attempt, 28.5% miss rate)
- Jamir Jones — 1 (three total tackles on four total attempts, 25% miss rate)
- Benny Snell Jr. — 1 (special teams)(three tackles on four total attempts, 25% miss rate)
- Ulysees Gilbert III — 1 (special teams) (five tackles on six total attempts, 16.6% miss rate)
- Derek Watt – 1 (special teams) (eight tackles on nine total attempts, 11.1% miss rate)
- Isaiahh Loudermilk — 1 (seven tackles on eight total attempts, 12.5% miss rate)
- Derrek Tuzska – 1 (four total tackles on five total attempts, 20% miss rate)
As I wrote earlier, it’s not as bad as the Seahawks’ game, in terms of missed tackles, but that’s about as bad of a missed tackles report you’ll see, considering the names and on the list, featuring safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, linebacker Devin Bush, reserve safety Miles Killebrew, and even guys like linebacker Joe Schobert and star defensive tackle Cameron Heyward.
All around, it was a disastrous performance by the Steelers.
Let’s take a look at some of the worst misses.
Turning point in the game Sunday for the defense? #Steelers missed an absurd 5 tackles on Detroit’s final drive of 1H, leading to FG and 10-10 tie at the break. Guys like Heyward, Highsmith, Bush, Fitzpatrick and Sutton with huge misses. Disastrous series. #HereWeGo
— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) November 16, 2021
As my tweet states above, the Lions’ final drive of the first half really kick-started the Steelers’ tackling issues on Sunday. Five of the 18 misses on the afternoon (27.7%) came on Detroit’s final drive of the first half, and it was from some key names.
Early on in the drive, Heyward missed just his second tackle on the year, which really sparked the Lions’ offense on the drive.
It’s a simple run up the middle by the Lions to running back DeAndre Swift, but Heyward is slow to get off of a block and goes for an arm tackle on Swift, who is able to power right through Heyward’s attempt, shaking off the big lineman before gaining an additional 12 yards, moving the chains for the Lions.
Heyward is rarely out of position like this on run plays and usually makes these tackles in space, but on this day he couldn’t, and it cost the Steelers’ defense.
On the same drive, the Steelers’ defense was able to force a fourth and one from near midfield. Alex Highsmith won the rep early against Lions’ veteran tackle Taylor Decker, who was making his return from a hand injury. Highsmith missed on Swift for a loss in the backfield, which then led to misses from Devin Bush and Fitzpatrick back-to-back, allowing Swift to move the chains on an eventual scoring drive.
Honestly, this was an inexcusable sequence from the Steelers and really showed what was about to happen down the stretch in the 16-16 tie.
Opening up the second half, the Steelers simply couldn’t stop the Lions’ rushing attack, starting with the first play from scrimmage.
Miles Killebrew was in the game as an extra box defender and missed both of his tackles on the first two plays of the second half, which summed up the day. Right away the Lions went at him. Swift again knifed through the Steelers’ front seven, through a tackle attempt from Killebrew before then forcing a miss on Fitzpatrick, picking up a first down and giving the Lions a boost right out of the locker room.
Then, on the same drive the Steelers had the coup de grâce, missing an astounding five tackles alone on Godwin Igwebuike’s 41-yard touchdown run as Henry Mondeaux, Derrek Tuzska, Bush, Fitzpatrick and Joe Schobert all missed tackles before the young Lions’ running back found the end zone, giving Detroit a lead.
That may be, in my six years charting missed tackles here at Steelers Depot, the worst display of tackling on a single play by any Steelers’ defense in that time span. Remarkably bad. Bush and Fitzpatrick’s efforts here were laughably bad too, which was par for the course from the two on Sunday.
They have to be so much better, but right now they’re full on liabilities with that mostly referring to Bush.
Offensively, the Steelers had a good day overall against a hapless Lions’ defense, forcing 15 missed tackles in the tie. Once again it was rookie running back Najee Harris leading the way, adding to his impressive forced missed tackles number on the season.
Total forced missed tackles vs. Lions — 15
- Najee Harris – 8
- Ray-Ray McCloud – 3 (two on special teams)
- Diontae Johnson – 2
- Pat Freiermuth – 1
- Mason Rudolph – 1
Total forced misses through nine games— 114 (12.66 forced misses per game)
- Najee Harris – 58
- Diontae Johnson — 14
- Ray-Ray McCloud — 13 (11 on special teams)
- Chase Claypool — 9
- JuJu Smith-Schuster – 8
- Kalen Ballage — 4
- Pat Freiermuth — 3
- James Washington — 2
- Benny Snell Jr. — 1
- Mason Rudolph — 1
Harris remains an absolute force for the Steelers, forcing defenders to miss consistently, allowing the star rookie running back out of Alabama to make plays all over the field for the Steelers.
Though this run barely got back to the line of scrimmage (and drew a 15-yard penalty on Detroit linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin for a late hit out of bounds), Harris showed just what he can do behind the line of scrimmage in an attempt to create plays for himself.
Watch the quick stiff arms to force defenders to miss in the backfield, allowing him a chance at even trying to turn the corner.
He’s a special back overall and will only get better with more experience gained.