We all know by now that the Pittsburgh Steelers are rarely significant players when it comes to free agency. The 2014 offseason was a bit of an aberration, not only in terms of the size of a few of the contracts, but also in terms of the volume of free agents brought in.
Their general philosophy is to build from within utilizing the draft and rookie free agents as their primary source of talent, developing their own and retaining them, as they have done recently with key pieces of their offensive line, and as they are expected to do later this offseason on both lines.
In other words, generally, they don’t add many snaps to their roster, but they typically also don’t lose many. But with the volume of departures that the team faced this season—including three retirements—and the meager additions, one metric has the Steelers having suffered the fourth-steepest snap count loss from last season in the league.
With the combined losses of Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Jason Worilds, Brice McCain, and a few handful of other more minor contributors, and with the only addition being running back DeAngelo Williams, in all, the Steelers suffered a net loss of 3517 snaps from last season, based on data gathered by ESPN Stats & Information.
In total, they lost 3749 snaps from last season, although that actually ranks extremely low on the list—the fourth-fewest snaps lost. But they only added 232 snaps, which is far and away the second-fewest, with only the Packers adding zero snaps. The third-fewest snaps added was more than 1000 snaps north of the Steelers.
The only teams to suffer a greater net loss of snaps were the Saints, Eagles, and 49ers, in ascending order, with the 49ers unsurprisingly leading the way, having lost an astounding 8728 snaps from their 2014 roster.
It is interesting, though, to consider how many more snaps the Steelers might have lost, for example, had Polamalu and Taylor remained healthy, or if some of their offensive free agent acquisitions had actually fulfilled their roles. That could have added another 1000+ snaps to the net loss column.
It is also interesting to note that, according to Kevin Seifert, the Steelers retained 94 percent of their offensive snaps from last season, the second-highest rate behind only the Packers. And it makes perfect, sense, of course, after witnessing the offense have about as productive a campaign as the franchise has ever seen.
Every player who took a snap along the offensive line last season, for example, remains on the roster, although that cannot be said for running back, wide receiver, or tight end, with those contributions being considerably more minor.
At the end of the day, however, what this really does is confirm a generally consistency to the Steelers’ principles. They ranked low league-wide in terms of both snaps added and snaps lost, even if they lost more snaps than is usual. Rather than rebuilding, Pittsburgh will attempt to build off of what they created last season.