Throughout offseason workouts like Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp, coaches talk to the media and fans cling to every word uttered to get a glimpse of what the team might be doing in sessions, or what they may resemble in the upcoming season.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, many fans loved it when they heard Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler talk about the need to tackle better, and how they would be doing more of this in the upcoming training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 25th when players report.
“You look at the whole last year, we missed a ton of tackles. No. 1, we got to tackle. We’re going to work on tackling in training camp, try to improve it as much as we can. And if we are able to tackle better, all that stuff is going to be cut down.” Butler told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
This isn’t false. The Steelers’ tackling last year was horrendous, but is just doing extra tackling drills really going to make a difference?
The reason I ask what seems like such a preposterous question is how almost every single national media contributor who rolls through Latrobe, PA every summer says that same thing:
No one tackles in training camp as much as the Steelers do.
Considering the Steelers tackle more than almost every other NFL team, and their tackling still leaves a lot to be desired, are just drills going to actually get the job done? Let’s just say I am skeptical. To me, tackling from the youth level to the professional level has always, and will always, be a ‘want to’ thing.
You either want to tackle, or you shy away from contact like Deion Sanders in the open field.
For the Steelers, their problems are compounded in many different ways. There are players who look like they’d rather have a root canal than tackle, hello Artie Burns, and then there are those who look like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner with some of the angles they take, hello Sean Davis.
Whatever ails the Steelers’ tackling, Butler realizes the improvement in this area is crucial to the success of the defense, and the team.
“We got to stop the freaking run, and that’s as simple as you can get,” Butler said.
“You remember that crap like it’s yesterday,” Butler said. “It bothers me. I know it bothers my players. We know what happened in the game — we didn’t stop the run, we let them score too much. You look at the dadgum Super Bowl, shoot there’s 1,100 yards, and how many points are scored in the Super Bowl? A ton. I don’t like the way that’s going.”
Nonetheless, I suppose a coach can only do so much, and since Butler and company can’t go on the field and tackle for the players, more tackling drills is likely all they can do to try and improve this area of the defense. Butler does have a theory as to why the tackling is so atrocious.
“Nobody does it in college. You look at what’s going on in college, they have 20 hours. They’re not practicing fundamentals, they’re practicing schemes.
“So when we get them, we can’t think that they know the fundamentals of playing football. We got to teach them the fundamentals of playing football. That’s our job to do that.”
With that said, coach ‘em up coach! Let’s hope the extra drills and repetitions work, because I don’t think the tackling can get any worse than it was in 2017.