When the Pittsburgh Steelers turn in a strong performance in the tackling department on game day, the black and gold typical tends to pull out a win.
Though the Steelers gained just 168 yards of total offense and failed to take full advantage of four Tennessee Titans’ turnovers on Sunday at Heinz Field, the Steelers were able to pull out a 19-13 win thanks to a picture-perfect tackle by cornerback Joe Haden on a fourth and seven, stopping Nick Westbrook-Ikhine short by a full yard (though the terrible spot by the officials was much closer).
That tackle by Haden, who made his return to the lineup after missing five weeks, summed up the Steelers’ efforts in that department against the Titans as Pittsburgh missed just nine tackles on the day, the first time the defense has been in the single digits since Week 11 on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Obviously the Steelers lost that game late, but that wasn’t the case in Week 15 against the Titans.
Let’s take a look at the Week 15 missed tackles report for the Steelers.
Total missed tackles vs. Titans — 9
- Arthur Maulet – 2
- Alex Highsmith – 1
- Terrell Edmunds – 1
- Akhello Witherspoon – 1
- Minkah Fitzpatrick – 1
- Cameron Sutton – 1
- Isaiahh Loudermilk – 1 (sack attempt)
- Christian Kuntz – 1 (special teams)
Total missed tackles through 14 games – 155 (11.07 misses per game)
- Minkah Fitzpatrick — 17 (102 total tackles on 119 total attempts, 14.3% miss rate)
- Joe Schobert – 12 (98 total tackles on 110 total attempts, 10.9% miss rate)
- Cameron Sutton – 12 (45 total tackles on 57 total attempts, 21% miss rate)
- Terrell Edmunds – 12 (76 total tackles on 88 total attempts, 13.6% miss rate)
- Alex Highsmith — 10 (one on sack attempt) (58 total tackles on 68 total attempts, 14.7% miss rate)
- Joe Haden – 9 (26 tackles on 35 total attempts, 25.7% miss rate)
- Devin Bush – 8 (66 tackles on 74 total attempts, 10.8% miss rate)
- Arthur Maulet — 7 (two on special teams) (39 total tackles on 46 total attempts, 15.2% miss rate)
- T.J. Watt — 7 (three on sack attempt) (53 total tackles on 60 total attempts, 11.6% miss rate)
- Tre Norwood — 6 (one on sack attempt)(one on special teams) (33 total tackles on 39 total attempts, 15.4% miss rate)
- Justin Layne – 5 (four on special teams) (14 total tackles on 19 total attempts, 26.3% miss rate)
- James Pierre – 5 (two on special teams) (47 total tackles on 52 total attempts, 9.6% miss rate)
- Robert Spillane — 5 (two on special teams)(30 total tackles on 35 total attempts, 14.3% miss rate)
- Chris Wormley — 5 (one on sack attempt) (44 total tackles on 49 total attempts, 10.2% miss rate)
- Derrek Tuszka – 4 (two on special teams) (14 total tackles on 18 total attempts, 22.2% miss rate)
- Henry Mondeaux — 4 (one on sack attempt) (12 total tackles on 16 total attempt, 25% miss rate)
- Isaiah Buggs – 4 (17 total tackles on 21 total attempts, 19% miss rate)
- Akhello Witherspoon – 3 (14 total tackles on 17 total attempts, 17.6% miss rate)
- Miles Killebrew — 3 (special teams) (11 total tackles on 14 total attempt, 21.4% miss rate)
- Melvin Ingram — 3 (10 total tackles on 13 total attempts, 23.1% miss rate)
- Isaiahh Loudermilk — 2 (one on sack attempt) (15 tackles on 17 total attempts, 11.8% miss rate)
- Cameron Heyward — 2 (73 total tackles on 75 total attempts, 2.6% miss rate)
- Taco Charlton – 2 (one on sack attempt) (17 tackles on 19 total attempts, 10.5% miss rate)
- Marcus Allen — 2 (special teams) (four total tackles on six total attempts, 33.3% miss rate)
- Jamir Jones — 1 (three total tackles on four total attempts, 25% miss rate)
- Benny Snell Jr. — 1 (special teams)(five tackles on six total attempts, 16.6% miss rate)
- Ulysees Gilbert III — 1 (special teams) (seven tackles on eight total attempts, 12.5% miss rate)
- Derek Watt – 1 (special teams) (11 tackles on 12 total attempts, 8.3% miss rate)
- Buddy Johnson — 1 (two tackles on three total attempts, 33.3% miss rate)
- Christian Kuntz — 1 (special teams) (two tackles on three total attempts, 33.3% miss rate)
Things started out rather rough for the Steelers in the tackling department overall, but credit to the team for bouncing back from a rough start to clean things up and finish strong.
Just how bad was the start in the tackling department? Three of the nine misses on Sunday came in the first quarter as the Titans jumped out to a 10-0 lead.
It all started poorly on the Steelers’ second punt of the game as long snapper Christian Kuntz recorded the first miss of the game on Chester Rogers’ 55-yard punt return.
That’s a blooper-reel miss right there from Kuntz. He does a great job using the sideline as an extra defender, but he gets crossed up and falls over. I didn’t give Benny Snell Jr. a miss on the play because he was just working off of a block and dove in desperation, nor did I give punter Pressley Harvin III a miss, considering that wasn’t even an attempt — he just slide into the picture and caused teammate Miles Killebrew to pull up, allowing Rogers to cut back.
Thankfully Ulysees Gilbert III was able to get Rogers on the turf at the end of his 55-yard return, saving a touchdown and giving the Steelers some blades of grass to defend. However, there was a preposterous block in the back penalty on James Pierre — who was a defender at that point — on the punt that gave the Titans another 15 yards. NFL officiating is horrible. You can see Pierre’s “penalty” in the clip above.
On the ensuing Titans’ drive, Arthur Maulet and Alex Highsmith — both of whom had strong games — recorded missed tackles on a short dump off on third down to Titans’ running back Jeremy McNichols, setting up Ryan Tannehill’s 1-yard QB sneak for a score.
I have no idea what Maulet is attempting to do here, considering it’s third down and it’s a simple check down to ensure the Titans get points. He hesitates and gives up the inside, allowing McNichols to get to the line to gain. Highsmith misses at the first down marker, allowing McNichols to get to the one.
That simply can’t happen in any instance.
Finally, on the Titans’ last drive of the game, I charted a miss for both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Sutton on D’Onta Foreman’s first run of the drive, which chewed up 20 yards.
It’s not as bad as it looks, but it’s still a bad rep by both. Sutton is slow to close down on Foreman and has a weak tackle attempt, while Fitzpatrick does a great job closing downhill — something he did all game long.
However, Fitzpatrick can’t get Foreman on the ground on the initial high tackle attempt, allowing Foreman to bounce off of him and keep running. Sutton is a passenger along for the ride and if Fitzpatrick wasn’t able to recover and get Foreman’s ankles from behind, there’s not a chance Sutton is getting him on the ground, that’s why I gave him the miss.
Offensively, though the Steelers did pretty much nothing with the football, they were outstanding forcing missed tackles, which is remarkable.
On the day, the Steelers forced 17 Titans missed tackles, winning the tackle battle with a mark of +8.
Total forced missed tackles vs. Titans — 17
- Najee Harris – 6
- Ray-Ray McCloud – 4 (all on special teams)
- Diontae Johnson – 3
- Pat Freiermuth – 2
- Zach Gentry – 2
Total forced misses through 14 games— 174 (12.43 forced misses per game)
- Najee Harris – 81
- Ray-Ray McCloud — 28 (21 on special teams)
- Diontae Johnson — 26
- Chase Claypool — 11
- JuJu Smith-Schuster – 8
- Pat Freiermuth — 8
- Kalen Ballage — 4
- Zach Gentry — 2
- James Washington — 2
- Benny Snell Jr. — 1
- Mason Rudolph — 1
- Anthony Miller — 1
Even when he’s under siege as soon as he touches the football, Najee Harris remains a special player overall, especially when it comes to forcing defenders to miss.
He often has absolutely no chance in making a play overall, but darn it he fights his tail off.
On the second play from scrimmage Sunday the Steelers tried to establish a running game. That went nowhere fast, but Harris fought hard to make something out of nothing, forcing two missed tackles right away on his first touch.
How he stayed on his feet here until the end of the run is remarkable. He’s incredibly strong and creates a ton after contact. Just fix this offensive line in front of him, and fast, please.
Later in the first half Harris again gave a valiant effort on a play that was a terrible design and gave him no shot at succeeding.
Third and long, throw a check down behind the sticks to Harris and hope he can make something happen. Where have we seen that clip before? Credit to Harris though as he forced three Titans to miss even though he knew as soon as he caught the football that there was no chance he was picking up the six necessary yards.
Finally, in the third quarter one play after rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth was concussed, fellow tight end Zach Gentry came through for his tight end brethren.
Gentry showed off power on this 18-yard tight end screen, running through two Titans’ defenders, sending a message to his own sideline in the process. That play ended up being a catalyst to the Steelers’ lone touchdown of the game — a 1-yard Ben Roethlisberger quarterback sneak that sparked the Steelers onto the comeback trail.