Steelers Defensive Charting: First Three Quarters Of Season

– Not counting any pre-snap penalties, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense has seen the field for 810 snaps in 2015. That puts them on pace for exactly 1080 snaps on the season.

– The Steelers have been in nickel 531 times. They’ve been in base 3-4 246 times. Percentage-wise, that’s nickel leading 65.6/30.4. At this point, it isn’t if the Steelers will be in nickel more often but just how wide of a margin it will be.

Over the last three weeks alone, they’ve played nickel just over 70% of the time.

– One interesting figure is the juxtaposition between the yards per carry allowed in their base defense versus their nickel, which has become the majority by a wide margin. In their 3-4, they are allowing 2.9 yards per carry. In nickel, they’re allowing 4.1. That isn’t a terrible figure and it’s hard to pinpoint how good or bad it is without the other teams. The Steelers have had their issues stopping it but on the whole, it isn’t as bad as it might seem.

Keith Butler has blitzed on 174 of 525 opportunities, or 33.1% of the time. Much more than Dick LeBeau did in 2014 (28%). A defensive back has rushed on 86 of those 174, 49.4% of their blitzes and 16.4% overall.

– He has sent five or more rushes 171 times (32.6%), four rushes 258 (49.1%) and three or fewer 33 (6.3%). Should be noted this doesn’t add up to 100% because some plays are counted as “not available,” usually designated for packaged plays where the defenders are playing the run threat, not blitzing, and thus aren’t counted.

– Now we’ll look into the numbers position by position.

Defensive Line

Daniel McCullers has played only 15 snaps over the last three games, including eight against the Indianapolis Colts that all came in garbage time. Just doesn’t have a role anymore.

– Over that same timespan, Cam Heyward has played 87.8% of the time while Stephon Tuitt has played 90.4% of the snaps. Cam Thomas has played just 25 while Steve McLendon has come in as a sub-package rusher on just six snaps. Again, Heyward and Tuitt aren’t afforded any breaks because there is no competent #3 DE on this team or potent enough pass rusher.

– On all runs with McLendon at nose tackle, opposing offenses are averaging 2.0 yards per carry. On 2rd and 3rd down and less than four yards, offenses have only rushed for a first down five of 12 times with McLendon on the field.


– Outside linebacker snap count:

James Harrison: 425
Bud Dupree: 417
Arthur Moats: 411
Jarvis Jones: 334
Anthony Chickillo: 22

Moats has flipped the most, though still not often, playing 33 snaps as a ROLB this season.

– Percent of the time each OLB has dropped into coverage so far this season.

Jarvis Jones: 27.3%
James Harrison: 21.1%
Arthur Moats: 17.6%
Bud Dupree: 14.5%

Lawrence Timmons continues to do his thing, playing every snap this season. All 810. Only defender in the NFL to do so and one or two non-offensive lineman in the entire league – any other position – to play 100%. Blake Bortles is the other.

Defensive Backs

William Gay has been everywhere this year. 103 snaps at left corner, 170 at right, and 512 in the slot.

Brandon Boykin played more snaps Sunday against the Colts (40) than he had the entire season combined (17). But you probably already knew that.

Mike Mitchell has been an in-the-box safety 60 times this year but hasn’t done so since Week 9 against the Oakland Raiders. Steelers concentrating on putting him in center field and patrolling, letting Will Allen play to his strengths and be in the box. It’s no coincidence Mitchell basically stopped doing it since Allen’s return.

– Since Week 10, Allen has been in the box 59 times.

Shamarko Thomas has seen just 18 snaps this season. None since Week 8.

– I am, as you know, very stingy with my target category, basically becoming a “catch point” category for how well players perform when they play the pocket of the receiver. Having said that, Gay has only allowed four receptions on his 10 targets and no touchdowns. Ross Cockrell has allowed 11 of 21 targets and two touchdowns. Antwon Blake has only allowed 10 of 22 targets to be completed with one touchdown. Will Allen has struggled, allowing all six of his targets to be completed and three touchdowns.

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