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How the Steelers are improving their tackling over the course of the bye week

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a tackling problem, and the coaching staff is doing the best they can to rectify the issue over the bye week.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers Appleton Post-Crescent -USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a tackling problem in Week 6 vs. the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. Depending on where you get your statistics, the Steelers had at least double-digit missed tackles vs. the Seahawks.

It was bad. So bad the Steelers’ coaching staff was peppered with questions about how the team can work on these issues during their Week 7 bye week. When Mike Tomlin stepped in front of the media, he acknowledged, on his own accord, tackling was an issue.

“Our tackling needs to be sounder and surer.” Tomlin said. “Understanding our leverage of the ball relative to other defenders, not only what it is we’re doing but how it fits into the bigger picture.”

When asked about what the team can do, without hitting one another, to work on tackling, Tomlin’s response was concise.

“Just understanding spatially your relationship to the ball relative to others. There’s no need for a man to get outside of you if you have help inside of you, if you understand the knowledge of the help and things of that nature.” Tomlin added. “We’ve got to keep the ball constricted, and part of it is knowledge as much as it is physical. You get an opportunity to work on tackling approaches even when you’re dressed in helmets as we are today. We did a two-minute drill. We dumped many balls down during the course of that two-minute drill. We had zone defenders converging on that ball carrier. Boy, that is an awesome tackle opportunity even though we didn’t tackle in that drill because it’s a leverage-based thing and it allows guys to make plays within the construction of a defensive scheme.”

During the bye week is one of the few times the Steelers’ assistant coaches answer questions from the media. When defensive assistant and secondary coach Teryl Austin spoke, he too brought up the tackling issues, mainly those within the secondary.

“We don’t gloss past the problems and think they’re going to disappear,” said Austin. “We always address things that show up. Obviously, we’re not tackling our own guys, so it’s my job to put together some drills to help them get a little closer, to get in better position, so that we can make those tackles. It’s never a function of toughness here because you can’t play DB in this league if you can’t tackle.

“We’ve got to do some things and I’ll do some things drill-wise, to help them feel more comfortable in the open field, get their feet on people, so they can tackle and get them on the ground because we have to do better.”

One thing which should be noted is the tackling hasn’t been a season-long trend. Prior to the Steelers win over Seattle, the team had done a relatively good job with bringing down ball carriers. Austin realizes this and knows tackling has to be an emphasis throughout the season.

“I don’t think we’re a poor tackling secondary,” said Austin. “I think we’re going to tackle. We’re going to tackle well overall. I’m sure we’ll get back to it. We’ve just got to make sure we emphasize it.”

Defensive coordinator Keith Butler also spoke to the media this week, and he was asked about what the team can do to help improve their tackling woes.

“I think everybody says, “Well, they’re pros,” and all that stuff. Yeah, they’re pros, but you still need fundamentals. You still need to practice fundamentals all the time. You can’t just exit those and go to something else and stuff like that. You’ve got to pay attention to that, especially in an off week for us.” Butler said. “The great thing about this off week is we want it. If we were 2-4, it wouldn’t be good. But we won and we’re 3-3. The thing we’ve got to do is maintain the level we’re at and make sure that we can dadgum compete to get more points. We’ve got to do that. We’ve got to be able to do that.”

The Steelers are hoping their tackling issues are a thing of the past, and they’ll need to be on point in Week 8 when they play the Cleveland Browns on the road for their second divisional matchup of the 2021 regular season. Cleveland, who loves to run the football, cannot be afforded a lot of yards after contact (YAC), so tackling will be paramount.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Browns in Week 8.