Steelers Week 1 Defensive Charting Notes

Know you guys always like to hear about the data we collect from our Pittsburgh Steelers charting. I plan on doing this quarterly, so we’ll revisit after Week 4, but here’s some of the notable information from Week One against Cleveland. Keep in mind it is just one game, each gameplan will be unique, and the aggregate information – and how it compares to the past – is most important.

This is out of 89 plays, excluding the “no play” snaps.

The personnel groupings Keith Butler used Sunday.

3-4: 29 (35.6%)
Dime: 29 (35.6%)
Nickel: 25 (28.1%)
3-4 (small): 5 (5.6%)
2-2-7 Dollar: 1 (1.1%)

The “3-4 small” is the Steelers base 3-4 but with three corners and one safety instead of the traditional two corners/two safeties.

– Despite the Browns using plenty of heavy personnel, I didn’t see the Steelers once use their “over” front.

– One reader told me Bruce Arians said on the broadcast Mike Tomlin wants to try and run more nickel against 12/22 groupings. He did that twice, both in overtime. For the record, I think it’s a terrible idea.

– Butler blitzed on 27 of 54 opportunities, exactly half of the time. Again, just one game, but that’s a high figure. 18 of those involved 5+ rushers, 1/3 of the time. That’s also high.

He also used a three man rush four times, all on third down. The Browns converted two of them, from 7 and 15 yards out.

– No one blitzed more than Vince Williams, who did so a whopping 16 times.

Let’s look at it position-by-position.

Defensive Line

– As is the norm, Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt were the workhorses. They dominated the snap count. Neither one of them missed more than three snaps in a row.

– With L.T. Walton inactive, Tyson Alualu had to play both sides. 15 snaps as the LDE/LDT, 9 as the RDE/RDT.

Daniel McCullers was on the field for eight runs. The Browns averaged 4.5 yards per carry with him out there. With Javon Hargrave out there for 11 runs, they averaged 4.1 yards.

Only two DL had pressures:

Stephon Tuitt: 5
Cam Heyward: 2

Do want to note I made a slight change to how I calculate pressures this year. If I reference any previous years down the line, I’ll update it with that change too. Just a heads up in the interest of transparency.


Mike Tomlin hinted they’ll move around soon enough but Sunday, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt stuck to their sides. Watt didn’t play ROLB for a snap while Dupree only did it once, in a subpackage with Watt aligned off ball.

– Vince Williams was the guy at ILB, coming off the field for only one snap (the 2-2-7 dollar). Bostic was the odd man out in dime. And I think that’s the right move, though to his credit, Bostic played well.

Anthony Chickillo, like Alualu, played either side. Four on the left, six on the right.

– One of my favorite stats to track. Drop %.

Watt: 33.9% (19 of 56)
Chickillo: 25% (2 of 8)
Dupree: 17.3% (9 of 52)

Despite the right side dropping more often under Butler previously, Watt – on the left – nearly doubled Dupree’s figure. And he still ended the game with four sacks.

Pressure Data:

Bud Dupree: 7
T.J. Watt: 5
Vince Williams: 1
Jon Bostic: 1

Defensive Back

– Cornerbacks are pretty vanilla. Joe Haden on the left, Artie Burns on the right, except for the times when Cleveland uses 1 WR sets. Burns would always take the receiver, Haden would align near the LOS.

Mike Hilton did play a deep safety role in one of those “small 3-4” situations. He was on the field at Terrell Edmunds’ expense.

– Hilton blitzed only three times. Two of those came in overtime.

– Edmunds did start the game but Morgan Burnett “started” drives 3 and 4. Edmunds then was the starter the rest of the way, Burnett only playing in dime situations.

– One last thought on Edmunds. Definitely the “box” guy. Lined up as such on 40 of his 75 snaps, 53.3% of the time. Compare that to Sean Davis, who did so only 5.6% of his snaps (5 of 89).

– Target numbers for the DBs.

Cam Sutton: 2/4 55 yards 1 TD, 1 INT
Joe Haden: 1/3 33 yards
Mike Hilton: 1/5 9 yards
Sean Davis: 0/1
Artie Burns: 0/1
Terrell Edmunds: 0/1

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