It seems that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says it every year. “I’ve never seen a bye week that I didn’t like; it always seem to come at an appropriate time. We’ll take this one.”
Of course, the main benefit of the bye week is to give players a chance to rest and in some cases recuperate. For the coaches, though, it’s their chance to assess the season so far and to identify – as we say in Pittsburgh – what needs fixed.
As you may have guessed after Sunday’s OT win over Seattle, the first thing Tomlin mentioned? Tackling. He didn’t even have to add one of his favorite words - obviously.
By my admittedly unofficial count, they missed at least 9 tackles the other night. On one not-so-memorable play in the first quarter, Terrell Edmunds, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden each failed to make a tackle on what turned into a 27-yard pass play. That dubious hat trick did not lead to a score but 5 other missed tackles did as the Seahawks rallied from a 14-0 deficit to tie the game at 17.
“Our tackling needs to be sounder and surer,” Tomlin declared Tuesday. “Understanding our leverage of the ball relative to other defenders.
Not only what it is that we’re doing (as individuals) but how it fits into the bigger picture.”
The annual question is – and it does come up once or twice a season – how to work on tackling since NFL teams can’t afford to expose their players on either side of the ball to excessive contact in practice?
“You see us hitting the tackling sled out there?” Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler smiled. “It helps a little bit. Everybody says well they’re pros and all that stuff, yeah they’re pros but you still need fundamentals.”
For Tomlin, those fundamentals go beyond the act of tackling itself. They include basic concepts. “There’s no need for a man to get outside of you if you have he