Back to basics

In a bye week the Steelers intend to spend "looking for some trends, some things that need to be addressed," improving the tackling is on head coach Mike Tomlin's agenda.

"Our tackling needs to be sounder and surer," Tomlin continued after practice today. "Understanding our leverage of the ball relative to other defenders, so not only what it is we're doing (individually) but how it fits into the bigger picture."

The Seahawks ran for 144 yards on 27 carries in the Steelers' 23-20 overtime triumph last Sunday night at Heinz Field. Seattle amassed 126 of those yards on 22 attempts in the second half.

Tackling was perceived to be a contributing factor.

It was also an issue on what became a 41-yard catch-and-run splash-play completion from quarterback Geno Smith to tight end Gerald Everett, who caught the ball at the Steelers' 25-yard line and ran through three defenders before stumbling down at the 2 in the third quarter.

Today's response didn't include any live tackling, as is regularly the case at training camp.

But tackling was nonetheless emphasized.

"You see us hitting that tackling sled out there?" defensive coordinator Keith Butler asked the assembled media at the UMPC Rooney Sports Complex. "That helps a little bit.

"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. You gotta pay attention to that."

Take a look at Karl's best photos from the Week 6 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers beat the Seahawks 23-20 in OT

Putting the players in tackling situations was also a part of the equation.

"Just understanding spatially your relationship to the ball relative to others," Tomlin explained. "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. We gotta 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 ballcarrier. And 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 play within the construction of a defensive scheme."

Tomlin didn't say tackling has been a season-long issue for the Steelers' defense, but it's an aspect of their game they're attacking this week with "a knowledge that we need to get better."

Added Butler: "The great thing about this off week is we won. If we were 2-4 it wouldn't be any fun at all."

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