For many on the roster of the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday against the Detroit Lions in the preseason finale at Acrisure Stadium, it was the final opportunity to show they deserved to stick around after the cutdown deadline, especially defensively.
Much like the other two preseason games against the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday’s performance in the tackling department for the black and gold was rather solid once again. In total, the Steelers missed just nine tackles in the preseason finale, with just four guys that are projected starters or significant contributors missing tackles in the 19-9 win over the Lions.
Let’s dive in.
Total Missed Tackles vs. Lions — 9
Tre Norwood – 2
Minkah Fitzpatrick – 1
Cameron Sutton – 1
Robert Spillane – 1
DeMarvin Leal – 1
Khalil Davis – 1 (sack attempt)
Donovan Jeter – 1 (sack attempt)
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. – 1
Total Missed Tackles In Preseason (Three Games) — 31 (10.33 misses per game)
Donovan Stiner – 4 (seven tackles on 11 total attempts, 36.4% miss rate)
Damontae Kazee – 3 (one on special teams) (13 tackles on 16 total attempts, 18.8% miss rate)
Tre Norwood – 3 (special teams) (10 tackles on 13 total attempts, 23.1% miss rate)
Minkah Fitzpatrick — 2 (sack attempt) (four tackles on six total attempt, 33.3% miss rate)
Justin Layne – 2 (two tackles on four total attempt, 50% miss rate)
DeMarvin Leal – 2 (sack attempt) (five tackles on seven total attempts, 28.6% miss rate)
Buddy Johnson – 1 (13 tackles on 14 total attempts, 7.1% miss rate)
Carlins Platel – 1 (five tackles on six total attempts, 16.6% miss rate)
Mark Robinson – 1 (15 tackles on 16 total attempts, 6.2% miss rate)
James Pierre – 1 (seven tackles on eight total attempts, 12.5% miss rate)
Linden Stephens – 1 (three tackles on four total attempt, 25% miss rate)
Carlos Davis — 1 (four tackles on five total attempts, 20% miss rate)
Myles Jack — 1 (eight tackles on nine total attempts, 11.1% miss rate)
Genard Avery — 1 (one tackle on two total attempts, 50% miss rate)
Chris Steele — 1 (one tackle on two total attempts, 50% miss rate)
Cameron Sutton — 1 (four tackles on five total attempts, 20% miss rate)
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. — 1 (two tackles on three total attempts, 33% miss rate)
Donovan Jeter — 1 (sack attempt) (one tackle on two total attempts, 50% miss rate)
Khalil Davis — 1 (sack attempt)(two tackles on three total attempts, 33% miss rate)
Robert Spillane — 1 (eight tackles on nine total attempts, 11.1% miss rate)
As you can see from the numbers above, not bad overall through three preseason games for the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially from a big-name perspective.
On Sunday against the Lions, the Steelers missed just two tackles in the first half. Many of the seven remaining misses in the second half came with the bottom of the roster guys fighting for a spot in the fourth quarter. However, the two misses in the first half came from two key players in the secondary, that being safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback Cameron Sutton.
Fitzpatrick was up first in the missed tackles department, missing a stop on Detroit running back Justin Jackson behind the line of scrimmage after filling the lane against the run.
Fitzpatrick does a great of creating separation from the block and getting into the backfield, but he gets caught flat-footed, leaning to his right where he believes Jackson is going, allowing the veteran running back to jump cut off of him to force the miss. Fortunately for Fitzpatrick, Ahkello Witherspoon is there in the hole behind him to clean up the miss for the short gain.
In the second quarter, Sutton recorded his miss on Detroit wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in space.
The Steelers messed this coverage up from the start, allowing St. Brown to find himself wide open in the middle of the field coming out of the slot. Sutton recovers late and puts himself in a position to make the tackle at the catch point, but he comes in out of control and doesn’t break down quickly enough or squarely enough, allowing St. Brown to side-step him and pick up an additional five yards, moving the chains.
In the second half, outside linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. recorded his first miss of the preseason, which might have hurt him just a bit in his bid to make the 53-man roster.
Rashed does a really good job turning the corner here to get under the block and get to Jackson in the backfield, but he slides right off of the Lions’ running back behind the line of scrimmage thanks to a strong stiff arm to the chest, keeping Rashed just out of reach overall. This should have been a tackle for loss though, any way you slice it. I don’t give Mark Robinson a miss here because he’s getting off of a block and just getting outside when he’s caught up by Rashed.
Finally, safety Tre Norwood missed a big tackle in space in the fourth quarter coming downhill in run support.
He does a solid job filling downhill (I don’t give Buddy Johnson a miss as he’s getting blocked in the hole), but Norwood then goes back to what he did in college, which was diving at ankles in space. I would have liked to see him take a better angle overall knowing he has some support there from Justin Layne to his right, but overall he has to make this stick in space.
The miss allows Detroit running back Craig Reynolds to pick up an additional 10 yards on the run.
Offensively, the Steelers forced 10 missed tackles in the win, winning the tackle battle by a mark of +1 on the afternoon.
Total forced missed tackles vs. Lions — 10
Benny Snell Jr. – 4
Najee Harris – 3
George Pickens – 1
Jaylen Warren – 1
Gunner Olszewski – 1 (special teams)
Total Forced Missed Tackles In Preseason (Three Games) — 43 (14.33 forced missed tackles per game)
Jaylen Warren – 8
Anthony McFarland Jr. – 6 (three on special teams)
Benny Snell Jr. – 5
Mitch Trubisky – 5
Tyler Vaughns – 4
Najee Harris – 3
Gunner Olszewski – 3 (one on special teams)
Steven Sims – 3 (two on special teams)
Tyler Snead – 2
Kenny Pickett – 2
Zach Gentry – 1
At this point in his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s well known just how physically dominant rookie wide receiver George Pickens is. That showed up again on Sunday against he Lions, not only as a blocker, but as a run-after-catch guy.
Here on a simple slant route from Mitch Trubisky, Pickens shows off his strength with the football in his hands, shedding the would-be tackler on a high tackle attempt, allowing him to pick up a few additional yards and move the chains.
In the second half, I really, really liked what I saw from Benny Snell Jr., who was not in any sort of danger of losing a roster spot. Mike Tomlin and Danny Smith love their Benny Snell Football, and he showed why on a few runs Sunday.
He’s not the flashiest runner by any means, and he doesn’t bring much explosiveness to the table. However, he’s a tough runner between the tackles, one that can wear down opponents with his physicality. He’ll bounce off defenders, drag others for a few yards and consistently fall forward, which is perfectly fine for his role in Pittsburgh as the No. 2 or No. 3 behind Harris and Jaylen Warren.
Sunday’s finale against the Lions was a good show of why that remains the case.