Thinking about the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, there weren’t too many positives which came to mind.
What came to mind were the numerous leads squandered, the inability to get off the field when it mattered the most and the overall mediocre play outside of sacking the quarterback.
Heading into the 2018 regular season, Mike Tomlin made it a point to let everyone with ears know improving tackling was a point of emphasis in 2018. In training camp the team focused on tackling almost more than any other defensive skill.
Did it pay off?
According to the folks at Pro Football Focus (PFF), their tackling improved tremendously. Check out the results from 2017 to 2018:
Ranks:— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) February 6, 2019
2017 - 32nd
2018 - 5th
In case you can’t see the above tweets, just look at these stats:
2017 — 147 / Rank — 32nd
2018 — 86 / Rank — 5th
Talk about night and day when it comes to tackling. Sure, when I first read the statistics visions of Terrell Edmunds tackling absolutely awful angles ran through my mind, but it is natural for fans to immediately think of the bad plays, even over the good plays.
I didn’t think about Mike Hilton harassing ball carriers in the backfield on a corner blitz, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt crashing down the line of scrimmage to bring down a ball carrier from behind or Stephon Tuitt trailing the play looking like a great white shark about to feed on his prey.
In this instance, I have to give credit where credit is due. The Steelers were rightfully ridiculed for their poor tackling after the 2017 season, and while they weren’t the league’s best in 2018, going from 32nd to 8th is a tremendous jump in the right direction. Kudos to Mike Tomlin and his defensive staff for the improvement, and the hope is the improvement continues in the tackling department next season.