Skip to main content

Tackling the issue 

Coach Mike Tomlin addressed tackling when he spoke to the media following practice on Tuesday, and senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin did the same on Wednesday when he spoke.

But the key factor in what both of them said is they aren't just addressing in by talking about it. They are doing it on the field. No, they aren't hitting each other, but they are working on drills to make the tackling issues disappear.

"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."

Austin knows the ability is there, the talent is there. He just wants to make sure the tackles there moving forward.

"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."

The secondary only has two interceptions this year, one each from Terrell Edmunds and James Pierre. For Minkah Fitzpatrick, the turnovers have been slow to come this season, other than a forced fumble, but it's due in part to what the defense has been asking him to do in other areas.

"It's quiet in terms of turnovers, but he does a lot more for us in terms of what he does in the back end and getting us lined up and direction," said Austin. "It's probably not what he wants and we're all expecting a little bit more in terms of turnovers and all that stuff, but it's going to come. He's a really good player. Those guys might go through a drought or something, but he's a really good player and the turnovers will come.

"Earlier this year in terms of moving him around, we had him in nickel, we had him at dime. We kind of moved him in some different spots and now we've let him settle in because some of the other guys have come along. That gives him a chance to really hone in on his position. I have no problem with Minkah Fitzpatrick and the value he brings to our team."

The one thing Austin has to make sure Fitzpatrick doesn't do is try and force the turnovers since it's something he is so accustomed to. He wants to make sure he is patient because the plays will come.

"It's a real challenge," said Austin. "He's had a couple hit him in his hands this year that he normally catches. So, I'm sure that's frustrating to him. You see him out here working, catching with the quarterbacks, catching off the machine, doing those things to get better. It'll come. You've been around it long enough, those guys that prepare and work like he does, the balls will start falling."

* * *

Austin also weighed in on others in the secondary:

On having faith in Tre Norwood, a rookie seventh round pick who has stepped up big:

"Tre has been doing well," said Austin. "He gets a little better with more experience. Really sharp player, so you don't see him making the same mistakes twice, which is good. He's really been coming in in the dime personnel because we like his pass savvy, and his route recognition skills."

On what he's learned about James Pierre:

"I learned he's a heck of a competitor," said Austin. "He had some rough spots. He had a couple big balls on him and situational football that was a real learning experience for him and for us. But I think what you saw was he was a guy that battled back in that game, and he makes a nice play at the end of this game in terms of punching that ball out. I like his trajectory. He's still got a ways to go, but what I've learned about him is he is a tough guy. He's gets around the ball, and he'll be competitive, and he'll end up being a good player for us."