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2021 Preseason Charting: Steelers Defense

With the preseason behind us, I wanted to take a quick look at conclusions from our 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive charting. Breaking down some basic scheme/personnel stuff and a heavy focus on individual performance and numbers.

Let’s break it down.

– This is out of 241 official plays this preseason, discounting the no plays.

– Not that scheme stuff means a whole lot here but some of the numbers. Personnel usage this preseason.

3-4: 32%
Nickel: 68%

Of the 32% of base, 3-4 snaps, the Steelers used their over front 10.4% of the time. 8 of 77 snaps.

They were in base against 11 personnel (3 WRs) 17.7% of the time. They were in sub-package against heavy personnel (21, 12, 22, etc) 30.3% of the time.

– Keith Butler sure didn’t sit back and play Cover 3 this preseason. This defense blitzed 49.7% of the time on all passing plays this summer. He sent 5 or more rushers a whopping 56.2% of the time.

When the Steelers blitzed, they got pressure 43.4% of the time. If they sent five, they got pressure 40.7% of the time. When the Steelers sent only three or four and didn’t blitz, they got pressure just 22.4% of the time.

– Let’s look at things by position group.

Defensive Line

– QB Pressures

Isaiahh Loudermilk: 5
Carlos Davis: 3
Abdullah Anderson: 3
Chris Wormley: 3
TJ Carter: 1
Tyson Alualu: 1
Isaiah Buggs: 1

All five of Loudermilk’s pressures came in the final three games. Had two against Detroit, two versus Carolina.

– Know there’s sample size issues and other “noise” that can’t all be pinned down on one guy, but YPC allowed and opposing run success rate with each on the field.

Isaiah Buggs: 2.5 YPC (30.4% success rate against)
Carlos Davis: 5.5 YPC (48.4% success rate against)

Pretty stark difference. And these numbers tell us what we already know. Davis is a better athlete and pass rusher. Buggs is better against the run.

To add some more context, Buggs did benefit by primarily playing in base defense while Davis was in nickel. Here’s what those percentage of snaps looked.

Buggs 3-4 %: 76.6%
Davis Nickel %: 68.8%

Feels like we didn’t learn a lot “new” about these two this summer, though both played well in their area of strength.

Henry Mondeaux and Isaiahh Loudermilk were the only two defensive lineman to play 100+ defensive snaps. Loudermilk had the most with 121. Mondeaux was second with 107. Of those who played in all four games, TJ Carter (35) and Buggs (47) played the least.

Linebacker

Pressures

Alex Highsmith: 9
Jamir Jones: 8
Quincy Roche: 4
Cassius Marsh: 4
Jamar Watson: 3
Melvin Ingram: 1 (keep in mind Ingram had just 21 pass rush snaps this year)

Some target numbers.

Robert Spillane: 10/13 119 yards 1 TD 0 INTs
Marcus Allen: 5/9 35 yards 1 TD 0 INTs
Joe Schobert: 1/1 10 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Ulysees Gilbert III: 6/7 67 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Devin Bush: 1/1 34 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs

Spillane (132), Jones (119), Marsh (110) and Gilbert III (107) were the linebackers to hit triple-digit snaps.

Defensive Back

Target numbers

Justin Layne: 7/12 64 yards 0 TDs 1 INT
James Pierre:
5/10 36 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Tre Norwood: 1/5 24 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Mark Gilbert:
4/5 72 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Miles Killebrew: 4/5 25 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Arthur Maulet: 3/5 29 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Lafayette Pitts: 2/5 40 yards 0 TDs 1 INT
Cam Sutton: 1/4 13 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Shakur Brown: 3/4 60 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Terrell Edmunds: 2/3 11 yards 0 TDs 0 INT
Joe Haden: 1/2 10 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Lamont Wade: 1/2 3 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Donovan Stiner: 1/2 3 yards 0 TDs 1 INT
Minkah Fitzpatrick: 0/1 0 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs

Arthur Maulet blitzed on 27.9% of his coverage snaps this preseason, 12 of 43. He failed to record a pressure on any of those 12. Terrell Edmunds led all DBs with two pressures on just six rushes.

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