Stopping the run: On Tuesday, Steelers players stood in the locker room and shared their disappointment with the team’s run defense to date. They didn’t hold back, knowing that first and foremost, they have to stop the run.
Coach Mike Tomlin understands that frustration and agrees they should feel that way after the way things have turned out to date.
Through three games the Steelers have allowed 418 yards rushing, an average of 139.3 yards per game. This is a defense that prides itself on shutting down the run and making a team one dimensional. But it hasn’t happened so far.
“They should be angry because of the quality of our performance in that area,” said Tomlin. “It wasn’t always significant, but it was too many times that the pile was falling forward. It’s better technique. It’s more physicality in terms of taking on blocks to minimize vertical holes so there is not more space as plays come to an end. I thought too many times in the game the runner was able to fall forward. That usually has very little to do with the quality of the tackle, and has more to do with how we are combating blockers and minimizing space, whether it’s horizontally or vertically. That’s an area of the game I thought we could have been better at.
“San Francisco has a very good perimeter game, but it shouldn’t lesson our physicality at the point of attack in how we combat people. That allows us to constrict running lanes horizontally. That allows us at the second level when we come down hill to constrict the running lanes vertically and I think those are two general reason why the pile falls forward in football.”
Catching on fast: It didn’t take long for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to pick up enough pieces of the Steelers’ defense for him to have an impact on the field against the San Francisco 49ers last week.
Fitzpatrick started at the free safety spot and finished with an interception, forced fumble and five tackles.
“I was really impressed by his ability to learn, and learn in a short period of time and to absorb the number of snaps he was able to absorb,” said Tomlin. “Kudos not only goes to him, but in an effort to simplify things for him we asked some additional things of others. For the large part we got what we needed there.
“It will be good to get him with some additional time and for him to be able to continue to learn the depths of what we do and have a better understanding. That is not going to do anything but aid him in terms of his productivity and us collectively as he gains a footing back there.”
Trading spaces: The Steelers pulled off their second trade in less than a week when they acquired tight end Nick Vannett from the Seattle Seahawks.
Tomlin said he was familiar with Vannett, not just from scouting him while at Ohio State, but also since the Steelers just played the Seahawks on Sept. 15. Vannett had one catch for 13 yards in the game.
One thing Tomlin did make clear, though, is Vannett was signed for depth and it doesn’t mean that Vance McDonald, who injured his shoulder against the 49ers, will miss playing time.
“I am very familiar with him,” said Tomlin. “Ohio State is one of the schools I am at annually and you get a good feel for those guys. I remember looking specifically at him his pro day.
“You couple that with we just played those guys a short number of weeks ago so I familiarized myself with him in today’s ball in terms of the things he provided against us. He made a few plays against us a week ago, vertical passing game and so forth that was consistent with what we expected and seen from him. And also he was a handy teamer. This is a guy that started on their punt team and kickoff return team against us just two weeks ago.
“He has an opportunity to be helpful to us even if Vance runs the course and is able to be available to us in the game. And let me say I am optimistic about Vance being available to us in the game but may be limited in some form or fashion. Adding quality depth like Nick is significant.”