One week after being on the field for 43:43 of game time in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was again on the field Sunday at Acrisure Stadium in the home opener against the New England Patriots for a majority of the game.
Despite being on the field far more often than the Steelers’ offense, Pittsburgh’s defense continues to play assignment sound football and is making the plays that are there in the tackling department. On Sunday, the Steelers missed just seven tackles in the loss, with two of the misses coming on special teams in kick coverage.
That might seem like a high number, but considering how bad the Steelers were in recent seasons with missed tackles, the first two weeks of the season show a marked improvement in that department for the black and gold.
Total missed tackles vs. Patriots — 7
Arthur Maulet – 2 (one on special teams)
Myles Jack – 1
Derek Watt – 1 (special teams)
Levi Wallace – 1
Delontae Scott – 1
Cameron Sutton – 1
Total missed tackles in 2022 (two game) — 13 (6.5 misses per game)
Terrell Edmunds – 4 (10 tackles on 14 total attempts, 28.5% miss rate)
Arthur Maulet – 3 (one on sack attempt, one on special teams) (five tackles on eight total attempts, 37.5% miss rate)
Alex Highsmith – 1 (12 tackles on 13 total attempts, 7.7% miss rate)
Myles Jack – 1 (23 tackles on 24 total attempts, 4.2% miss rate)
Levi Wallace – 1 (four tackles on five total attempts, 20% miss rate)
Delontae Scott – 1 (zero tackes on one total attempt, 100% miss rate)
Cameron Sutton – 1 (six tackles on seven total attempts, 14.3% miss rate)
Derek Watt – 1 (special teams) (zero tackles on one total attempt, 100% miss rate)
After turning in a rather dreadful performance in Week 1 in the tackling department, safety Terrell Edmunds bounced back in a major way on Sunday, finishing with four stops without a miss, providing some steady play once again in the secondary.
That said, it was another defensive back that struggled individually in the tackling department against the Patriots, that being slot cornerback Arthur Maulet. Granted, one of his misses came on a harmless kickoff return by New England rookie Pierre Strong Jr. that went nowhere, but he had a major miss late in the game on Damien Harris’ game-clinching run off left tackle as the Patriots simply punched the Steelers in the mouth in the fourth quarter on the ground.
It wasn’t just Maulet on the play that missed, but outside linebacker Delontae Scott as well. Scott was elevated from the practice squad on Saturday due to the T.J. Watt injury. He got some run in the game and didn’t do much with it, and his one-armed tackle attempt on Harris as he flew by on the run was pretty disheartening.
He had a great training camp and preseason, but then when the opportunity knocked he couldn’t make a play at the line of scrimmage. That’s deflating.
Outside of the ugly misses on the Harris game-clinching run, there were a few frustrating missing sprinkled in throughout Sunday’s loss, especially from defensive backs.
Cameron Sutton was tested a lot on Sunday, especially out of the slot on crossing routes. For the most part he had good coverage; the Patriots just made plays. However, he did miss a tackle on Nelson Agholor on a crossing route as he tried to make a play on the ball late, failing to wrap up Agholor in the process.
The miss put Edmunds in a tough position, and while he made the tackle in space, he nearly missed it as Agholor almost ran through the tackle for a splash play.
Fellow cornerback Levi Wallace also felt Agholor’s wrath on the day. On a quick throw to the flat in the fourth quarter, Wallace came downhill poorly, attempting to go high against Agholor in space, catching a hand to the face on a mean stiff-arm from Agholor, stunning Wallace backward, allowing Agholor to pick up a few extra yards.
That was a bit disappointing from Wallace, considering his strong suit when the Steelers signed him was his physicality coming downhill in run support. That didn’t show on Sunday on this particular play, which was disappointing.
Overall, none of the misses were truly egregious or resulted in points, but it’s pretty disheartening to see defensive backs missing tackles like this from the Steelers, especially early in the season.
Offensively, it wasn’t much better from the Steelers.
On a day in which the play-calling felt like it was lacking and the execution of play calls even more-so with poor quarterback play, the Steelers offense forced just five missed tackles in the loss, all from running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.
In total, the Steelers lost the tackles battle by a mark of -1, dropping them to 1-1 on the year in the category.
Total forced missed tackles vs. Patriots — 5
Najee Harris – 4
Jaylen Warren – 1
Total forced missed tackles through two games — 16 (8.0 forced missed per game)
Najee Harris – 7
Pat Freiermuth – 2
Diontae Johnson – 2
Jaylen Warren – 2
Zach Gentry – 1
Mitch Trubisky – 1
Gunner Olszewski – 1 (special teams)
Getting more usage on Sunday, Najee Harris was terrific in the forced missed tackles department, per usual. On 20 offensive touches, Harris forced a team-high four misses, all of which came with Harris as a receiver on Sunday, where he can really hurt defenses.
The one thing Harris will always deserve credit for is his willingness to fight for every single blade of grass with the football in his hands. He plays like a madman and will go down swinging on even the shortest gains.
With that mentality, you’ll also get highlight-reel plays, like the one he put together on a short dumpoff from Mitch Trubisky in the third quarter.
He’s so darn strong and so explosive in short areas. Get him the football more often out of the backfield. It shouldn’t be that hard.
Along with Harris, Jaylen Warren had a strong game out of the backfield. He turned Patriots cornerback Jack Jones into a speed bump in the first half, again showing that physicality he loves to play with.
While the Steelers need that home run threat in an offense that struggles to move the football, having a guy like Warren behind Harris certainly is comforting, especially so early in his career. He’s an explosive runner that dishes out punishment in the process.