2018 South Side Questions: Will L.J. Fort Keep Getting Snaps?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.

How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Is L.J. Fort going to continue to be worked onto the field for select sub-package snaps?

In any season, no matter when it comes, the bye week is always a time in which teams try out new things or introduce new concepts that they want to pursue, making changes that they feel they need extra time for in order to install properly rather than doing so on the fly.

Evidently one of the ideas that the coaching staff wanted to explore this week was getting veteran inside linebacker L.J. Fort on the field in select passing situations on defense. For and Tyler Matakevich earlier this season split time in filling in for Vince Williams when the latter missed a game, and showed that he was capable of holding up in coverage.

While I still need to go over some of the fine details about how and when it was used, you can see even early in the game, for example on a play on third and six on the Cleveland Browns’ opening drive, the team installed a dime package that featured Fort as the line inside linebacker on the field, with both Williams and Bostic coming off, and Morgan Burnett being brought on as a third safety.

The first experiment in using that look did not end well, resulting in a 21-yard gain from a rookie quarterback to a rookie depth wide receiver, but they continued to make use of it throughout the game, and in fact Fort ended up playing close to a couple dozen snaps. Of course a lot of that came late in the game after the Steelers built a sizable lead.

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