Before we dive too deep into the free agency period now underway, I figured it would be best to wrap up our series of articles that delves into the Pittsburgh Steelers offense and the manner in which they conducted their business, as dictated by personnel packages.
We have already looked at, for example, the Steelers’ ‘base’ offensive package, the 11 personnel, which features three wide receivers, a running back, and a tight end. They used this package about two thirds of the time last season, because the talent that they had on the roster dictated that.
We’ve also looked at four-wide receiver sets, as well as multiple-backfield sets, and now we will conclude by looking at the multiple tight end sets, which will, of course, primarily come in the form of the 12 package, featuring two wide receivers, two tight ends, and a running back. There is also some 13, 02, and 03 mixed in, as well, but the predominant look was out of the 12.
Multiple-tight end sets actually accounted for a fairly substantial portion of the Steelers’ total offense. Including the playoffs, they ran with multiple tight ends on the field about 250 times, which would be somewhere around roughly one fifth of their total offensive snaps.
It may not shock you to learn that Heath Miller was on the field for all but 22 of these snaps, with the only ones that he missed being accounted for by his injury suffered in Seattle, which caused him to miss the following week against the Colts. He played on every other multiple-tight end set during the year—they don’t have another tight end like that on the roster.
It may also lead you to no surprise that Matt Spaeth was generally the second tight end, accounting for 167 snaps. But that leaves 85 snaps in which he did not participate. Most of those went to Jesse James, their rookie tight end, who saw 59 snaps in two-tight end snaps that Spaeth did not. The others can be accounted for from Will Johnson and Chris Hubbard, primarily.
The usage rate was split nearly perfectly evenly between runs and passes, with 128 designed passing plays versus 121 designed runs being accounted for. One might think that it would be slightly biased toward the running game if anything, but considering the running back injuries and the offensive weapons, the split should not be too surprising.
As a team, the Steelers averaged about 5.1 yards per rush from multiple-tight end sets, or 4.9 net yards when factoring in penalties and the like, which is an impressive performance. The run looks also produced three rushing touchdowns in short-yardage looks, which is pretty much how all of their rushing touchdowns were scored.
As a passing offense, the Steelers completed 75 of 118 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 63.6, gaining 747 yards for 6.3 yards per attempt, with the net yardage production being nearly identical. That is neither poor nor excellent. It also produced four passing touchdowns and two interceptions, six sacks, and four scrambles.