Slot Receiver Study: 2016 Overview

One of the biggest questions the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking at on the offensive side of the ball is who their third wide receiver is going to be, working alongside Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, the latter of whom was immediately put into work with the first-team unit after returning from suspension.

While the Steelers spent the majority of their offensive snaps with three wide receivers on the field, they don’t use as many three-receiver sets as become the norm—at least that proved to be the case last season, which could be an aberration due to injuries and the late-season focus on running the ball.

But with that in mind, I think it would be a worthwhile service to look at the Steelers’ wide receiver group from last season relative to how they performed, specifically, when lining up in the slot in passing situations, because, generally speaking, the third wide receiver is probably going to spend the vast majority of time in that role.

Over the course of the next several days, I am going to review the application for each candidate for the job based on their 2016 performance there where applicable—which will not be the case for rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster for obvious reasons, while at the same time serving the purpose of talking about each player relative to their ability to play in the slot.

In the meantime, however, I have used my charting data from the course of the 2016 season in order to compile a chart of statistics about how each wide receiver performed in passing situations when they were asked to line up from the slot position, presented with minimal comment.

Player Pass Snaps Slot Snaps Slot % Targets Recs Drops  % Yards YPC YPRR TDs INTs
Markus Wheaton 67 35 52 4 2 1 50 15 7.5 0.4 0 0
Sammie Coates 197 17 9 3 2 1 67 53 26.5 1.5 0 0
Demarcus Ayers 44 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Eli Rogers 362 242 67 45 32 1 71 444 9.9 1.8 2 2
Cobi Hamilton 229 21 9 3 2 0 67 5 -1.7 0.2 0 0
Antonio Brown 543 67 12 20 14 1 70 121 8.6 1.8 0 0
Darrius Heyward-Bey 139 48 35 8 4 1 50 61 15.25 1.2 2 1

Of obvious note is the fact that Eli Rogers played two thirds of his snaps out of the slot. Markus Wheaton also played over half of his snaps from the slot, but, of course, he will not be included in the study because he is no longer with the team.

It is also worth noting that Antonio Brown saw over 12 percent of his snaps lined up in the slot. It should go without saying that that number would be higher if we looked at passing snaps exclusively taken with at least three wide receivers on the field. Sammie Coates saw the least amount of work in the slot on a per-snap basis out of all wide receivers who played at least 50 passing snaps during the regular season.

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