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Steelers 2020 Defensive Charting: First Half Of 2020

Halfway through 2020, we’re back to chart the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. Looking at the ins and outs of every aspect of this unit, the collective and the individual. If there’s any data we don’t provide below, feel free to ask in the comments and we’ll try to look it up.

– Excluding kneeldowns and no-plays (false starts, offsides, plays negated by penalty, etc) the Steelers’ defense has been on the field for 501 snaps. That puts them on pace for 1002 this season, 65 less than a year ago. If they remain on that pace, it’ll be their fewest defensive snaps since 2017 (979).

– Here’s the team’s personnel groupings through the first eight games.

3-4: 38.3%
Nickel: 34.9%
Dime: 22%
3-5: 4%
GL: 0.4%
4-4: 0.2%

To be clear, that 3-4 includes all the variations of the 3-4 defense they’ve run. Their over front and other wrinkles. Same with dime, including 1-3-7 and 1-4-6 looks the team has sprinkled in.

So looking at base defenses vs sub-packages, the percentages break down like this.

Sub-package: 57.1%
Base: 42.9%

That number dropped from 68% sub-package just four games ago. And it’s a closer cluster than it’s been over the years despite the fact this team is 8-0 and led for good chunks of their games. The five year average has been 68% sub, 31% base.

– Let’s check out Keith Butler’s blitz rate: For the season, it sits at 36.4%. Four weeks ago, it was 39.2%. Here is his week-by-week blitz percentage.

Week 1 vs NYG: 52.7%
Week 2 vs DEN: 41.7%
Week 3 vs HOU: 21.9%
Week 5 vs PHI: 34.1%
Week 6 vs CLE: 29.0%
Week 7 vs TEN: 19.4%
Week 8 vs BAL: 34.3%
Week 9 vs DAL: 46.3%

Heavy blitz rate early in the year. Number came down against better QBs and picked back up against Garrett Gilbert last week, the second highest blitz rate only behind Daniel Jones in Week 1.

Butler’s season-long 5+ rush rate is 42.6%. That’s down from 48.9% after the first quarter of the season.

– Let’s look at this defense unit-by-unit.

Defensive Line

Pressures

Stephon Tuitt: 21
Cam Heyward: 14
Chris Wormley: 4
Tyson Alualu: 3
Isaiah Buggs: 1
Henry Mondeaux: 1
Carlos Davis: 0

– Snaps per pressure. Lower the number, the better.

Wormley: 7
Tuitt: 12.3
Mondeaux: 16
Heyward: 19.1
Alualu: 32.7
Buggs: 49

Solid numbers for this group here. Wormley has four pressures on 28 rushes. Tuitt’s numbers have decreased slightly while Heyward has improved from where he was at the first month of the year.

Linebackers

Pressures

TJ Watt: 29
Bud Dupree: 25
Vince Williams: 6
Devin Bush: 4
Alex Highsmith: 3
Ola Adeniyi: 1

Pressures per snap. Again, lower the number the better.

Williams: 5.5
Watt: 8.4
Dupree: 10.4
Highsmith: 13
Adeniyi: 26

Williams showing himself to be a highly effective blitzer. Watt’s 8.4 is a career high. Here’s his snaps per pressure the last three years.

2018: 12
2019: 11.1
2020: 8.4

Ditto with Dupree. Here’s his last three.

2018: 13.8
2019: 15.6
2020: 10.4

Here are the coverage rates for the OLBs:

Adeniyi: 3.9%
Dupree:
9.8%
Watt:
11.2%
Highsmith: 25%

Watt and Dupree have seen their coverage rates jump way up from the first four weeks of the season when Watt was at 5.6% and Dupree 5.9%.

Over the last four games, here are their drop rates.

Watt: 16.4%
Dupree: 14.2%

Not my favorite thing to do with your top two pass rushers.

Target stats for the ILBs.

Robert Spillane: 4/9 55 yards 0 TDs 1 INT
Devin Bush:
6/12 70 yards 1 TD 0 INT
Vince Williams: 8/13 119 yards 3 TDs 0 INTs

QB rating against for these three.

Spillane: 25.0
Bush:
95.8
Williams: 131.1

– For what it’s worth, two of Williams TDs allowed have been to wide receivers. The other came to RB Melvin Gordon back in Week 2.

Secondary 

– Target stats for the DBs.

Mike Hilton: 6/13 107 yards 0 TDs 1 INT
Cam Sutton: 8/13 100 yards 1 TD 1 INT
Minkah Fitzpatrick: 6/14 82 yards 1 TD 2 INTs
Steven Nelson: 11/21 137 yards 2 TDs 2 INTs
Terrell Edmunds: 13/22 138 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Joe Haden: 23/41 345 yards 2 TDs 1 INT

– QB rating against each DB.

Hilton: 42.8
Fitzpatrick: 46.4
Nelson: 65.1
Edmunds: 77.5
Sutton: 79.0
Haden: 90.0

Numbers have improved for Fitzpatrick, Edmunds, and Haden. Fitzpatrick’s QB rating against after the first month was nearly 140 so we’re seeing it normalize into his expected range with a larger sample size. Even Edmunds’ number is respectable, better than it’s been at any stage of his career. Last year, it was 139.6 so he’s nearly cut that number in half.

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