Preseason Charting Notes: Defense

Steelers Helmet

With the preseason over and cuts already being made with an eye to the regular season, we’ll take one last look at the preseason. Some notes based off my preseason charting for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense.

– Excluding ones brought back by penalty, the Steelers’ defense faced 317 plays in the preseason. That’s an average of 63.4 per game.

– 135 of them took place in Steelers territory. That’s 42.6%. Was 44% in the regular season last year.

– Opposing offenses had 18 plays of 20+ yards. 12 of them came in the last two weeks. To be fair, only three came in the first quarter, when the starters were most likely to be playing.

– The Steelers were in nickel for 130 plays, 41%.

– The Steelers rushed four players on 118 of 172 opportunities. That’s more than two-thirds of the time. They sent more than five just five times. But again, it’s preseason. Those numbers should, hopefully, be a little different once the games start counting.

James Harrison led the defense with two sacks. Nine other players had one. Harrison only rushed 12 times. Old man dominating everybody.

Daniel McCullers logged a lot of snaps over the final two weeks. Test of his conditioning after missing part of the preseason with a hamstring injury. 59 of his 71 snaps came against the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills.

Joe Okafor recorded the fewest snaps of any defensive player with only 13 across the first four games. And that’s the last time we’ll ever mention his name.

Cam Thomas continued to highlight his versatility. He played 40 snaps at nose tackle, 24 at right end in base defenses, and 12 at left end in base. Also got a lot of right DT nickel work.

L.T. Walton edged out Thomas for the most snaps of all the defensive lineman, with 120 in all.

– By my count, the Steelers showed that 4-3 look, pulling an outside linebacker off the line, 33 times. Just over 10% of the time. We’ll monitor that during the regular season. Feel like it was used less as the preseason went along.

Anthony Chickillo dropped the most often in coverage, doing so 11 times.

– Chickillo also logged the most snaps of everyone with 132. Bud Dupree finished ten snaps behind and would have “won” had he been healthy enough to play in the preseason finale.

Sean Spence easily the most snaps of any inside linebacker with 174. Terence Garvin in second with 150. Not that he desperately needs them, but Lawrence Timmons only received 10.

L.J. Fort had a tackle on 14% of his snaps. Guy made plays.

Brandon Boykin played exactly 100 snaps. Breakdown based on position.

Left cornerback: 3
Right cornerback: 77
Nickel back: 20

Boykin probably could have played on the left more but was often on the field with Antwon Blake, who will always play on the left side.

Same breakdown for Kevin Fogg and B.W. Webb.

Fogg: 134 plays

Left cornerback: 58
Right cornerback: 47
Nickel back: 29

Webb: 136 plays

Left cornerback: 0
Right cornerback: 84
Nickel back: 52

– Steelers had a safety in the box on 119 of 317 plays. 37.5% of the time. Shamarko Thomas, Alden Darby, and Jordan Dangerfield all tied with 23.

Mike Mitchell saw only 22 snaps in the preseason.

Ian Wild had 47 snaps at safety before moving to inside linebacker and playing 24 there.

Gerod Holliman played fewer snaps (60) than Robert Golden (67) despite Golden missing part of camp with a leg injury. Darby and Dangerfield both played well over 100 snaps. Heck, as I noted, Wild almost matched Holliman’s figure.

– Get this. On runs, Jordan Dangerfield made the tackle 19.6% of the time. 10 tackles on 51 runs.

Some other notables.

Thomas: 7.3%
Darby: 11.4%
Golden: 2.9%
Holliman: 0.0% (29 plays)

For the preseason, Holliman had three tackles on 60 plays. Five percent. Not saying that’s good or bad. Just what the number is.



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