By Alex Kozora
As we’ve done every few weeks, some interesting takeaways based off my charting of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense in 2014. Just a random assortment of things that stuck out to me based off the data.
– Over the last two weeks, James Harrison has been dominating the snaps at outside linebacker over Arthur Moats. Out snapped Moats 70-31 during that span.
– The Steelers are one of two teams in the NFL who have an ILB/OLB duo playing 98%+ of the snaps – Jason Worilds and Lawrence Timmons. The St. Louis Rams’ James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree are the other combo.
– Although some have suggested the idea of using Daniel McCullers as someone who can collapse the pocket on third down, he only has five snaps as a DT in sub-package football.
– Just to put a number for how much time Ryan Shazier has missed this year. Only played a little over 29% of the team’s snaps (200).
– Every Steelers defender who started the season on the roster has logged snaps. Expect Shamarko Thomas, mostly due to injury.
– Brice McCain, Antwon Blake, and Will Allen, have combined to play 633 snaps in 2014. Sure that wasn’t the expectation coming into the year but such is life in the NFL.
– On the season, the Steelers have spent 370 of 685 plays in their 3-4 defense. That’s 54%. 44.5% in nickel and 1.5% in goal line.
– The Steelers held the Tennessee Titans to 40 plays Monday night, including penalties. Their previous season low was holding the Jacksonville Jaguars to 57 in Week Five.
That mark is down from being in their base defense over 63% of the time throughout the first six weeks.
– A comparison between Steve McLendon, Cam Thomas, and Daniel McCullers.
There have been 98 rushes with McLendon in the game at NT for 375 yards (3.8 YPC) and three touchdowns.
There have been 66 with Thomas in the game at NT for 325 yards (4.9 YPC) and 2 TD.
And there have been 20 carries for 64 yards (3.2 YPC) and 1 TD with McCullers playing the nose.
– Going one step further, the average YPC of the trio of runs between guards.
Keep in mind McCullers sample size is tiny and difficult to glean much from.
– Looking at my “target” category of the Steelers’ secondary. Remember that I’m stingy with what I consider a target. The chart is likely generous to CBs.
William Gay: 10/28 287 yds 2 TD 2 INT (2 pick six’s)
Cortez Allen: 23/39 390 yds 5 TD 2 INT
Brice McCain: 5/8 117 yds 1 TD 1 INT (1 pick six)
Antwon Blake: 4/9 60 yds 2 TD 1 INT
As you can tell, Allen’s stats, even with the generosity, are atrocious. His five touchdowns allowed equal the amount given up by the rest of the current, active secondary.
Nine of the 23 completions he’s given up have gone for 20+ yards, including seven of his last eight. In fact, during the last three weeks before his benching, Allen allowed eight completions on 10 targets for 227 yards (28.4 YPC) and three touchdowns. Disgustingly bad.
– Opposing quarterbacks are completion 58.2% of their passes (227/390) against the Steelers’ defense in 2014.
– The Steelers have blitzed on 121 snaps in 2014. 41 of those – a whopping 33.9% – came in the Steelers’ two best weeks. Week Eight against the Indianapolis Colts and Week Nine against the Baltimore Ravens.
Similarly, the Steelers have rushed 5-6 defenders 154 times this season. Over those same two weeks, they did so 48 times, or 31.1% of the year’s total.
Bottom line: Although there is a risk to it, the Steelers have been at their best when making an effort to get to the QB.
– The Steelers have send a DB on a blitz on 42 occasions. Troy Polamalu has been a part of 26 while Mike Mitchell has been sent 14 times.
– Of the Steelers’ 21 sacks, only seven have been with a blitz. Ditto with the number of time there’s been a rush of 5-6 defenders.
– One possible mythbuster. In the Steelers four losses, they’re allowing 4.8 20+ yard plays. In their seven wins, they’re allowing 4.6. Not much of a difference.
– Steelers’ defense continues to do a nice job stifling offenses on 3rd and 1. Opposing teams have converted just 6/14 overall, including 50% (4/8) running the ball.
– As you’d expect, the Steelers are using their base defense against heavier personnel. 278 of 290 times against 12, 21, or 22 personnel. That’s a nearly 96% clip.
– Opposing offenses have gained an average of 5.8 yards on first down. Though not mutually exclusive, the average distance for offenses on 3rd down is 7. Latter definitely a strong stat.
– The Steelers are struggling to stop opposing team’s when they run 13 personnel. For the season, team’s are 6/8 for a whopping 205 yards and 2 TDs. Four of those passes have gone for 30+ yards, including gains of 51 and 67.
– Although Stephon Tuitt has seen just 141 snaps, he’s played six different positions. LOLB, LDE, LDT, NT, RDT, RDE. Why his snaps are limited. A lot to absorb and learn. Hopefully there’s an uptick in playing time after the bye.
– The Steelers’ defense have committed 36 penalties. Cortez Allen leads the way with eight penalties in just 459 snaps. William Gay has not committed a defensive penalty in his 553 snaps. Just adds to how underrated #22 has been.