2016 South Side Questions: How Much Will Toussaint Play Sunday?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: How much action will Fitzgerald Toussaint see on Sunday with DeAngelo Williams ruled out?

In order to begin to answer this question, there are a number of data points that we have to take into consideration, and that starts with looking at how often Williams played this season while Le’Veon Bell has been active over the course of the past three games.

The answer to that question is two-fold, the first part being ‘not a lot’, and the second being ‘descending’. Williams has played 34 snaps out of 193 since Bell has returned, and the decided majority of those snaps came with Bell also on the field. In terms of usage, he has eight rushes and one reception, averaging three touches per game, but five of those touches came in Week Four.

But the mitigating factor is the fact that the Steelers will be without Ben Roethlisberger, so we will also want to take a look back at last season to see how the two were used together during that time. It turns out he was used even less often last year.

Through the four games that Roethlisberger missed last season, Williams saw just 26 snaps in total, averaging less than seven snaps per game, and his touches were virtually non-existent. So obviously the Steelers were making an effort to use him just a touch more.

Now we have to take into consideration the fact that Williams and Toussaint are different players with different talent levels. Had Williams been healthy, perhaps, with a greater emphasis in the game plan on running the ball, there might have been enough touches to go around for Williams to see maybe eight to 10 touches if things actually went well.

That is probably not in the plans for Toussaint, especially with Bell having more or less already said that he wants to get his number called early and often to make up for Roethlisberger’s absence. Toussaint may perhaps get one or two touches and five or six snaps just to spell Bell after he makes a long play or something, but I wouldn’t anticipate much else.

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