Steelers’ Defensive Charting Notes: First Four Weeks

From the first month of the season, our nuggets of info based on the weekly charting I conduct.

Ok, big picture stuff. These are all out of 274 total defensive snaps.

– You and I love hearing about personnel groupings so let’s start there.

Nickel: 64.2% (176/274)
3-4: 20.4% (56/274)
Dime: 14.9% (41/274)
Goal Line: .4% (1/274)

That means their “subpackage” defense, 5 or 6 defensive backs, have been on the field for 79.2% of the time. Absolutely crazy.

Keep in mind eight of those nickel snaps, 4.5%, were their “little nickel” of 4 CBs and 1 safety.

That’s no surprise because of the way offenses are playing. Offenses are in 02, 10, or 11 personnel 219 times, 79.6%, this season. The fact those numbers match up so well is no coincidence. The Pittsburgh Steelers almost always respond to what the offense throws at them.

– Last year, the Steelers were in base 27.4% of the time. Their nickel rate is staying about the same but dime is way up. 61 regular season plays last year. Now, already at 41.

In games where the opponent was typically behind, Washington and Kansas City, the Steelers were in sub-package 83.5% of the time.

– Some run yards per carry breakdowns.

Left side (from Steelers’ point of view): 3.1 YPC
Right side: 3.7 YPC
Middle: 5.3 YPC

– For the season, Keith Butler has blitzed 57 of 199 times, 28.6%. That is down, though not significantly so, from his 33.3% mark last year.

– He’s sent five man pressure just 33 times, 16.6%, which is way down from 33.2% last season.

– His four man blitzes are way, way up though, from 9.9% in 2015 to 22.5% this season.

– Overall, he’s sent a four man rush, blitz or not, 111 times, or 55.8% of his chances.

Let’s break things down position by position.

Defensive Line

Javon Hargrave has been the nose tackle in 71.4% of the snaps in Pittsburgh’s base defense. Daniel McCullers has picked up the rest, so 28.6%.

Stephon Tuitt has played 88% of the snaps this season. Cam Heyward is at 78.1%.

– Tuitt predominantly plays on the left side but he’s gotten 35 snaps at right end/right defensive tackle this year. Flipping those guys a little bit more though a little of that is also some sub-package stuff where Tuitt becomes the contain rush when the OLBs get moved around.

– Heyward, per ESPN, has 16 tackles this season. Five of them have occurred at least 10 yards downfield. There’s a way to quantify his heart and hustle.


Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones are tied for the position lead with 190 snaps.

– Not a whole lot else to look at for the position but want to get one of my favorite stats, OLB drop percentages.

James Harrison: 26% (26/100)
Jarvis Jones: 25.4% (35/138)
Arthur Moats: 19.6% (22/112)
Anthony Chickillo: 12.5% (6/48)

– Jones has been a Swiss Army knife. He’s been charted lining up/executing…

1. Inside linebacker
2. Left defensive end
3. Left inside Linebacker
4. Left outside linebacker
5. Left outside linebacker (off ball)
6. Left outside linebacker (on line, dropped into coverage)
7. Right cornerback
8. Right defensive end
9. Right inside linebacker
10. Right outside linebacker (off ball)
11. Right outside linebacker (on line, dropped into coverage)


– Stability at corner. William Gay has played 273 snaps. Ross Cockrell at 271.

Artie Burns has 143 snaps, on pace to play a healthy 572 snaps this season.

His weekly snap count:

Week One: 8
Week Two: 32
Week Three: 40
Week Four: 63

That’s a pretty nice line.

– Gay’s been versatile, as he always is. 37 snaps at left corner, 95 at right corner, 139 in the slot, and even work as the dime linebacker and free safety.

Robert Golden has served 40 snaps as the dime linebacker. At strong safety, he’s played 21% of those snaps in the box. Total, dime and SS, he’s been in the box 42.4% of the time.

Mike Mitchell another rock. Only missed five snaps this season.

Sean Davis has played 78 snaps in the slot. 91 at safety.

– Round things out with some targets numbers.

William Gay: 4/5 39 yards 1 TD 0 INT
Mike Mitchell: 1/4 15 yards 0 TD 0 INT
Artie Burns: 1/6 13 yards 0 TD 0 INT
Sean Davis: 2/3 35 yards 0 TD 0 INT
Ross Cockrell: 5/10 102 yards 0 TD 0 INT

You go, Artie.

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