By Alex Kozora
As I did back in Week Two, combing through the notables on my Pittsburgh Steelers defensive chart. Statistically, looking at the positives and negatives from the unit.
– I won’t post all the snap counts but I’ll note the snaps along the defensive line.
Cam Thomas: 233/375 snaps (62.1%). On pace for: 621 snaps
Brett Keisel: 225/375 (60%). On pace for: 600 snaps
Cameron Heyward: 324/375 (86.4%). On pace for: 864 snaps
Steve McLendon: 154/375 (41.1%). On pace for: 410 snaps
Stephon Tuitt: 65/375 (16.8%). On pace for: 173 snaps
The top two player’s numbers scare me. I don’t think the plan was to have a nose tackle that wound up benched last year and a 36 year old defensive end to play 600+ snaps.
Cam Thomas has played more snaps than Willie Young, who leads the NFL in sacks. Scary.
– The Steelers have been in their base 3-4 on 233 plays, 62.1%. Nickel on 134, 35.7%. Goal line on eight, 2.1%.
– As a whole, the Steelers are allowing 4.3 YPC. With opposing offenses in heavy personnel – 12, 21, 22, or 13, against the Steelers 3-4, they’re averaging 4.6.
– When Cam Thomas is on the field, the Steelers’ run defense is allowing 4.7 YPC. With Steve McLendon on the field, they’re allowing 4.2.
– When Cam Thomas is at nose tackle, the Steelers are allowing an amazing 6.0 per carry. 47 rushes for 284 yards and two scores. McLendon is at 4.2.
– I’ve been tracking completions allowed throughout the year. And full disclosure, I’m very strict over these numbers. I’ll only assign a target when the corner has an obvious chance to make a play on the ball. Keep it strict so I don’t have to try and guess on assignments. So maybe it’s a better judgment of how well a corner does with the ball in the air than he does in coverage.
William Gay is doing a nice job, allowing only 7 catches on 19 targets for 138 yards. You could argue the Vincent Jackson touchdown was Gay’s fault but the route concept made it difficult for any corner to cover. Using my stricter guidelines, I didn’t count it.
However, four of Gay’s receptions have been splash plays – 20 yards or more. The glaring negative.
Cortez Allen has given up 17 receptions on 31 targets (54.8%) for 245 yards and 3 touchdowns. Has picked off two passes. He’s given up three splash plays.
Brice McCain has only allowed one reception for 17 yards with a pick six.
– Speaking of them, the Steelers have allowed 30 explosive plays on 375 snaps. That’s 8%. It should come as no surprise, they’ve allowed 18 of those in their three losses. In their two “best” wins, against the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, they gave up just five.
– The Steelers have sent five or six rushers on 75 of 226 passes. However, it’s only produced two sacks.
– The Steelers have blitzed on 60 snaps. 21 times from a defensive back. Lawrence Timmons has blitzed the most, 26.
– Not sure how this stat stacks up with the rest of the league but the Steelers have given up 11 first downs on 18 attempts of 3rd and short (three yards or fewer).
– Jason Worilds has lined up at inside linebacker 32 times this season. But as we’ve pointed out previously, that usage has decreased significantly. Only lined up there once the last two weeks.
– In the Steelers’ 3-4, Heyward has logged 74 snaps at left end and 135 at right end.
– Tracking nickel snaps along the defensive line. McLendon hasn’t had a snap in nickel all season. Tuitt and Thomas have only played 16. Heyward and Keisel have each played 113 and only not been paired together on five nickel snaps.