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2021 Preseason Charting: Steelers’ Offense

Following Alex Kozora’s lead with the defensive charting, I am here to bring you some numbers about the offense from the preseason. The following data is based on our offensive charting. If there are any numbers we you’d like to see, let us know in the comments and we’ll look it up (if we track it.)

Let’s start with a breakdown of personnel used in the four preseason games.

Personnel Positions Play % Play Count Run Pass
11 1 RB/ 1TE/ 3 WR 74.7% 186 67 119
12 1 RB/ 2 TE/ 2 WR 11.2% 28 21 7
13 1 RB/ 3 TE/ 1 WR 2.8% 7 5 2
20 2 RB/ 3 WR 0.4% 1 1 0
21 2 RB/ 1 TE/ 2 WR 10.8% 27 16 11

 

Compared to last year’s numbers the personnel groups of 11, 13 and 20 were about the same percentage. There was a small increase from 8.71% to 11.2% in the usage of 12 personnel and a big increase from .17% to 10.8% in the use of 21 personnel.

No huddle was only used for two snaps in the preseason.

There were 29 play action plays on 138 passing plays (21%). In 2020 play action was used 79 times in 17 games or 10.9% of the time.

The Steelers had a man in motion at the snap on 53 plays or 21.3% of the time an increase from the 14.2% last year.

Quarterbacks

In recent history the Steelers have rarely used the quarterback under center. Last year Ben Roethlisberger was in shotgun 82.5% during the season. Under Matt Canada that was expected to change. Here is how the quarterbacks were aligned in the preseason.

Alignment Rudolph Haskins Dobbs Roethlisberger Totals
Under Center 31 54 28 6 119
Shotgun 36 63 25 10 134
Total 67 117 53 16 253

 

That is a big change with all the quarterback being under center 47% of the time. Even Roethlisberger was under center 37.5% of the time.

When under center they ran the ball 70.5% of the time and in shot gun they ran the ball 19.4% of the time.

Running Backs

The running game was in need of improvement and the hope is the arrow is point up. With a revamped offensive line it may take some time to gel and really get the running game going. Here is a look at the directions the RBs were used.

Name Left End Left Tackle Left Guard Middle Right Guard Right Tackle Right End
Najee Harris 1 2 2 1 4 4 1
Benny Snell 2 1 1 1 3
Anthony McFarland 3 2 3 4 2 2 2
Kalen Ballage 2 1 3 2 1 2 3
Pete Guerrero 2 4 1
Jaylen Samuels 8 3 3 8 5 3 1
Tony Brooks-James 2 1 5 1 1
Totals 18 11 12 25 14 15 8

 

Looks like there is an effort to run more up the middle, and there was an improvement in short yardage runs. On 13 run attempts with one or two yards to go (on any down), they were successful on 10 of those runs. One of the three fails had a holding penalty called. Samuels was 4-6. McFarland, Ballage and Brooks-James were each 2-2. Guerrero had the other fail and Harris and Snell didn’t have any attempts on short yardage runs.

The running backs as a group had 20 receptions on 25 targets for 215 yards.

Wide Receiver

The Steelers’ top 5 was pretty much locked in this year, so it would’ve been hard to for any other receiver to crack into that group. Here are some numbers from the preseason.

Player Snaps Targets Receptions Pass Dis AAY YAC Average YAC
Chase Claypool 46 6 4 81 13.5 13 3.3
James Washington 89 7 3 28 4.0 7 2.3
Ray-Ray McCloud 88 15 8 75 5.0 96 12.0
Cody White 70 10 7 79 7.9 17 2.4
Isaiah McKoy 54 6 2 58 9.7 1 0.5
Diontae Johnson 66 7 6 95 13.6 23 3.8
Juju Smith-Schuster 59 9 8 40 4.4 38 4.8
Mathew Sexton 45 4 2 24 6.0 2 1.0
Tyler Simmons 29 1 1 5 5.0 0 0.0
Anthony Johnson 86 8 6 110 13.8 10 1.7
Rico Bussey 55 6 5 36 6.0 19 3.8

 

  • Pass Dis indicates how far the ball travelled from QB to receiver.
  • AAY (average air yards) is the average of pass distance per target
  • YAC is yards after the catch
  • Average YAC is the average number of yards after the catch per reception

Claypool, D. Johnson and A. Johnson got the most consistent deep targets. McCloud was the big leader in yards after the catch with five gains ranging from nine to 33 yards following a reception.

Tight Ends

Eric Ebron had a good year in his first season in Pittsburgh but he needed help. The Steelers obliged, drafting Pat Freiermuth, and he may already be a favorite red zone target.

Here is the breakdown of total snap for the TE’s based on run versus pass plays.

Player Snaps Run Run % Pass Pass %
Zach Gentry 66 37 56.1% 29 43.9%
Eric Ebron 49 18 36.7% 31 63.3%
Kevin Rader 76 40 52.6% 36 47.4%
Pat Freiermuth 61 23 37.7% 38 62.3%
Marcus Baugh 57 26 45.6% 31 54.4%

 

No real surprises here with Ebron and Freiermuth being on the field more often for passing plays.

In 13 personnel (one running back, three tight ends) I found it interesting that no matter the combination of tight ends on the field Gentry was always aligned closest to the tackle, which may indicate the Steelers believe he is the best blocker of the group.

Here are some passing statistics for this group.

Player Targets Receptions Pass Dis AAY YAC Ave YAC
Zach Gentry 5 3 32 6.4 2 0.7
Eric Ebron 7 5 63 9.0 20 4.0
Kevin Rader 3 3 16 5.3 15 5.0
Pat Freiermuth 4 3 27 6.8 1 0.3
Marcus Baugh 4 2 13 3.3 7 3.5

 

Freiermuth had just one yard after the catch which may seem surprising, but two of his receptions were caught in the end zone.

Offensive Line

As stated earlier there is an overhaul happening here and a lot of new faces. Here are the snap totals and few notes.

Player LT LG C RG RT
Trai Tuner 47
Kendrick Green 111
J.C. Hassenauer 128
Aviante Collins 54
Brandon Walton 52
Malcolm Pridgeon 26
Dan Moore Jr 68 70
B.J. Finney 23 85
Kevin Dotson 123
Joe Haeg 42 55
Zach Banner 13
Chaz Green 119
Chukwuma Okorafor 93
John Leglue 42 18 36
Rashad Coward 15 63

 

Last year, the Steelers lined up an offensive lineman as a TE on 82 plays in either an unbalanced line (both tackles on the same side) or as a tackle eligible (a sixth offensive lineman). They had zero snaps in the preseason with an OL lined up at TE.

Only four offensive linemen took snaps at two positions: Moore and Haeg (both tackles) and Finney and Coward (both guards).

Leglue played all three interior offensive line positions.

Moore led the offensive lineman with 138 snaps.

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