Steelers Defense Charting Notes: First Quarter Of 2017

Revisiting our weekly notes of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense through the first month of the season.

This is out of 264 plays, excluding the ones where the ball was not snapped.

– Personnel groupings.

Nickel: 38.3% (101 snaps)
3-4: 36% (95)
Dime: 24.6% (65)
Goal Line: 1.1% (3)

Their 3-4 has seen a big rise the past two weeks, partially due to the offense’s they’re facing. Chicago and Baltimore much more “traditional.”

Dime has gone up too. We no longer have a majority package, though sub-packages still reign supreme. We have a plurality with nickel. Very interesting stuff.

Breaking it down a little farther, 3-4 “normal” with their 3-4 over front, which they’ve added under Butler.

3-4 normal: 63.1% (60 snaps)
3-4 over: 36.8% (35)

– Updated blitz number. By our definition, Keith Butler’s defense has done is 27.3% of the time. That’s down from 30% from the first two weeks, the last time we went through our charting, in large part to how infrequently he did it against the Chicago Bears (just once).

From his definition, sending 5+ rushers, they’ve blitzed just 16.9%. Down from 22.5% earlier this year. He blitzed 27.7% in 2016. Meshes with his hope of blitzing lest due to a better core pass rush.

– Against 11 personnel, the Steelers have stayed in base 13 times. That’s 7.7%. But seven of those snaps came back in Week One against Cleveland. Which, full disclosure, often came with Duke Johnson in the game, who we considered a WR because that’s where he had moved to but is obviously thought of a back as well. So it’s kinda murky.

Let’s go position-by-position.

Defensive Line

– Cam Heyward’s snap count…not really going down too far. 86.4% of the snaps. 88% the last two weeks. In that span, the most snaps he’s gotten off in a row is three, which happened only one time.

Javon Hargrave’s snaps have bumped up the last two weeks. Not just because they’ve been in base more either. Only six snaps in nickel the first two weeks. 20 the last two. Hopefully that trend continues. 10 a game is solid for him.

– Defensive Line pressures:

Cam Heyward: 9
Javon Hargrave: 7
Stephon Tuitt: 3.5
Tyson Alualu: 1

And pass rushes per pressure, which is a more relevant number. Lower the number the better.

Javon Hargrave: 8.1
Tuitt: 11.7
Heyward: 15.6
Alualu: 93

Really strong numbers across the board, sans Alualu.

– A defensive linemen has dropped into coverage five times this year.


– Two big stats to look at. Pressures and coverage rates.


Bud Dupree: 9.5
T.J. Watt: 4.5
Anthony Chickillo: 3
James Harrison: 1

Snaps per pressure:

Harrison: 2
Dupree: 8.7
Watt: 12.4
Chickillo: 24.3

Coverage %:

Dupree: 28.4%
Chickillo: 28.4%
Watt: 44%
Harrison: 50%

Watt’s percentage is crazy high and sure to come down. But fact even his overall pressures are high relative to the position is remarkable.

Ryan Shazier has been asked to blitz 13 times. He has a pair of pressures. Vince Williams has blitzed 10 times and has also two pressures.


– I don’t think you needed me for this but Mike Hilton has served as the full-time slot defender since Week Two. William Gay has only been used in dime. Gay has also been the only person, outside of Hilton in Week One, used in dime. No safeties yet.

– Hilton has five pressures and one sack. He’s blitzed 20 times, including a whopping 14 against the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday.

Combined, the rest of the secondary has blitzed seven. Nickel pressure is where it’s at.

– Target numbers.

Joe Haden: 2/5 36 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
William Gay: 1/3 13 yards
Mike Mitchell: 2/4 56 yards
Artie Burns: 5/11 52 yards 1 TD
Sean Davis: 4/6 56 yards 1 TD
Mike Hilton: 3/5 22 yards

Not a DB but Ryan Shazier’s target numbers.

4/8 32 yards 0 TDs 2 INTs

Pretty impressive.

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