Each week I’ll be writing a piece breaking down the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive personnel groupings, snap counts, and player usage from the previous game. Little bit tedious of a task, but it will help you understand who the coaching staff is using in what role, and how effective each player can be from different spots.
Against New England, the Steelers were in 11 personnel 49 of 73 snaps (counting penalties), or just over 67 percent of the time. With Martavis Bryant serving his four-game suspension, the team did feature 12 personnel on 18 snaps, including 10 of their first 18 plays. Lined up once in 13, and five times in 23, all on the goal line. Alejandro Villanueva was the third tight end in 23, so not even a true 23 package.
For various reasons, the Steelers only ran no-huddle on nine plays. Intended to run it a few more, but New England timeouts and other clock stoppages kept the number down.
Same five starters the entire game, as Villanueva represented the only backup lineman to see snaps during the contest, with all five of his snaps coming in the aforementioned goal line situations. Will be interesting to see if they utilize him as an eligible receiver as the season goes on.
Antonio Brown was on the field for 68 of 73 snaps (all except 23 personnel, obviously), and was isolated on one side of the field for almost half of those plays (32). 11 reps for Brown from the slot too, who continues to move all over the formation in Todd Haley’s offense. I did give Brown one drop, as a bullet from Ben Roethlisberger skipped through his hands at one point in the game.
Markus Wheaton was expected to see a slight increase in an outside receiver role and he did, as just 37 of his 66 snaps came from the slot. Wheaton’s lined up outside 13 times in 11 personnel and 29 times for the game total. The Oregon State receiver had one drop by my count, but could probably have made two other high degree of difficulty catches. Still looking for consistency from Wheaton.
Darrius Heyward-Bey was in the slot just four times out of his 43 snaps, and was isolated 17 times. He was the clear cut #3 throughout the game, until the final drive when Tyler Murphy replaced him.
Murphy getting into the game at all on offense was an upset, as he saw seven snaps on the last drive of the game for Pittsburgh. He was in the slot on four of those reps, and isolated on the other three.
Just one of Will Johnson’s 10 snaps came at tight end, while eight of the other nine came from the running back position. Johnson also saw one snap in the slot at receiver down in the red zone. His versatility continues to be his calling card, as Johnson was the only player not named DeAngelo Williams to tote the rock.
Heath Miller was the only skill player (other than Ben Roethlisberger) to be on the field for all 73 offensive snaps on Thursday night. Miller was flexed out wide for 15 of those plays, 12 times in the slot. Miller also lined up in the backfield as a sidecar to Roethlisberger’s right on one play, staying in to pass protect.
Matt Spaeth was only on the field in multiple tight end sets as expected, seeing 24 snaps all in an in-line role.
Williams was the man from start to finish, only stepping off the field for 11 plays all game. He wasn’t flexed quite as much as Le’Veon Bell,but still went out as a receiver on three snaps, two from the slot. I think Pittsburgh fully believes they can use him in the same ways they use Bell, without having to alter their offense nearly as much as they did last year when Bell was out.
Dri Archer saw only three snaps, two at left outside receiver and one at running back from the shotgun. Didn’t receive any offensive touches, which is not a great sign for his chances of being retained when Bell returns in a week-and-a-half. Pittsburgh clearly doesn’t trust him as a runner, and he’s useless as a pass protector, so why not switch him full-time to wide receiver? Remains a puzzling mystery.
Roethlisberger took just 27 of 73 snaps from under center, operating mostly from the shotgun. 29 of those snaps were against a box count of seven or more, but New England sent more than four rushers just four times, and never more than five. Roethlisberger was still sacked twice, although the offensive line kept him mostly clean other than those two plays.