Steelers Numbers Crunch: Skill Position Usage

By Alex Kozora

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ bye week provides the opportunity to take a much needed breath and review the team through its first 11 weeks.

After looking at Dri Archer’s carries last time, we’ll change gears and look at the Steelers’ skill positions as a whole from a statistical point of view. Namely, around their usage in the team’s offense.

We’ll break down the Steelers’ running backs snap to touch percentage. And for the receivers, a snap to target/catch percentage. The latter’s group is based solely off passing plays with data provided by our offensive charter Nick. A hat tip to him for the leg work.

The results are broken up into two charts below with analysis to follow.


Dri Archer 37 13 35.1
Le’Veon Bell 581 252 43.4
LeGarrette Blount 118 71 60.2
Will Johnson 114 7 6.1


Le’Veon Bell 351 70 57 19.9 16.2 3.7
Antonio Brown 383 123 88 32.1 23 9.1
Justin Brown 133 21 12 15.8 9 6.8
Martavis Bryant 91 30 16 33 17.6 15.4
Darrius Heyward-Bey 60 4 3 6.7 5 1.7
Heath Miller 384 52 43 13.5 11.2 2.3
Lance Moore 96 17 11 17.7 11.5 6.2
Matt Spaeth 86 1 1 1.2 1.2 0
Markus Wheaton 295 63 36 21.4 12.2 9.2


We’ll start with the running backs. Archer hasn’t been used as frequently as it’s probably commonly assumed. 37.5% usage is much lower than Le’Veon Bell or LeGarrette Blount. When you factor in the targets, Archer’s number only jumps to 43.2%. 16 of 37 snaps.

If anyone was overused, it was Blount. I won’t beat a dead horse, but for a guy who averaged 2.5 YPC over his last six weeks, that 60% clip was absurd.

Will Johnson is borderline criminally underused. He’s on pace for just 10 touches on the season. That’s Dan Kreider level of seldom use. Seriously. Kreider had five seasons of 10+ touches. It feels like an eternity since Johnson’s 25 touches in 2012.

Moving onto the wide receivers. As you’d expect, Antonio Brown is cleaning the floor of anyone else on the team. And probably anyone else in the NFL. Accounted for nearly one-third of the team’s targets when he’s been on the field and 23% of the catches. And his target/catch difference, which you’d expect to be high because of the volume, is lower than Martavis Bryant or Markus Wheaton.

Included Bell on this chart since he acts as a wide receiver. His target percentage is the third most of any player with at least 100 snaps, only slightly behind Wheaton. For a RB who is commonly asked to block, that is an astounding number. I’d consider it a negative if Bell wasn’t such an asset in the passing game.

Wheaton has the second largest target/catch differential, only behind Bryant whose numbers will likely normalize and given Bryant’s route tree, still a lot of vertical shots, the disparity is not surprising. High volume of targets with a high differential is not a good combination. Shows inconsistency, which clearly has popped up on tape.

Although Heath Miller isn’t often targeted given the number of snaps he logs, he makes them count. 2.7% difference is great for someone with 50+ targets. His catch/target percentage of over 79% is the highest in the NFL of non-RBs with at least 50 looks.

Bryant is obviously getting involved a ton when he’s in the game. Ostensibly, with plays meant specifically to get him the ball. Evident by his 33% target percentage.

Justin Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey’s lackluster seasons show up in the chart. Brown has just 12 catches on 133 opportunities, one of just two wide receivers with a catch percentage in the single digits. DHB is the other with three grabs across 60 snaps, one of them being a tunnel screen he didn’t run back to as well as he could’ve. At this point, he shouldn’t be on the field anymore. Not producing.

– What’s the over/under on the number of routes Matt Spaeth has run this year? 15, 20?

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