A little more than a month ago, Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II held his annual end-of-the season media interviews and not surprisingly, one of the many things he hit on is how the team’s defense needs to better against the run than they were in 2017.
“As our fans know, last year there were some games where we were kind of soft against the run and that’s not Steeler football or Steeler defense,” Rooney told a caller during a Steelers Nation Live question and answer session with fans. “And so, I think we got to start with making sure that we’re strong against the run and try and put the other team in a passing situation where we can get after the quarterback, which, you know, this year, we we’re pretty close to leading the league in sacks. And so that’s one of the strengths of our defense that we need to continue to capitalize on.”
On Monday, the Steelers finalized a two-year contract with unrestricted free agent linebacker Jon Bostic and on the surface, his addition should help the team’s defense to not only attempt to find a potential short-term replacement for injured inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, but help improve the overall run defense as well.
While Bostic has had his share of injuries so far during his career, in the 14-plus games he played for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, he did play well against the run overall.
To help illustrate Bostic’s solid play against the run with only stats, you need not look any further than the run stops he was in on with the Colts last season and specifically, his run stops that he was in on in which three yards or less were gained.
As you can see in the table of stats below that I compiled from the play-by-play data on Pro Football Reference, Bostic was included as either a primary or assisted tackler on 39 total run play stops that resulted in gains of 3-yards or less through the first 13 games of the 2017 regular season with the Colts (through Week 14 of regular season). The other stats of the other off-the-ball linebackers that I listed in the table below are also through Week 14 of the NFL regular season so you can see where Bostic ranked at the time. I cut the time off at Week 14 because Bostic suffered a knee injury during the Colts Week 15 game and did not finish that contest. He was then placed on the Colts Reserve/Injured list as a result of the injury and thus missed the final two games of the season.
Remember, these stats are from run stops on plays that gained 3-yards or less and thus they do not include stops in which more than 3-yards were gained. A play that gained 3-yards or less that either resulted in a first down or touchdown are not included in these stats. Additionally, if a play that gained 3-yards or less was deemed successful based on needed percentages on all four downs (1st-45%, 2nd-60%, 3rd-100%, 4th-100%), they were not included.
Bostic, as you can see below, is in some great company when it comes to these specific run stop stats and he was in on 30 of them as either the primary or solo tackler on the play. 7 of those resulted in lost yardage. Several of the linebackers listed below were unrestricted free agents this offseason like Bostic was and have since signed far more expensive contracts than the former Colt. Those players include Zach Brown (3/$24M), Demario Davis (3/$24M), Preston Brown (1/$4M), Avery Williamson (3/$22.5M), Tahir Whitehead (3/$18M), Todd Davis (3/$15M) and Anthony Hitchens (5/$45M).
The knock on Bostic to date is his injury history in addition to if he can cover as well as a few of the aforementioned linebackers. We’ll have further breakdowns on that part of his game in the near future but as long as he can stay healthy, he should at least help the Steelers run defense improve until he’s potentially overtaken for the starting job by a rookie draft pick.
In conclusion, Bostic should be considered a low-risk, with potential high-reward signing for the Steelers. At the very least, he should be a more than capable backup inside linebacker for the Steelers and special teams contributor if ultimately beaten out for Shazier’s vacant inside spot at any point during his time in Pittsburgh.
Top 2017 Run Stop Stats (3-yards or less) Of Linebackers Through Week 14
|PLAYER||TOTAL TACKLES||SOLO TACKLES||PRIMARY TACKLER||PRIMARY TOTAL TFL|