Steelers Not Focusing On OLB Snap Counts, Just Quality Play

If you have red paint, paint the barn red.

If you have good pass rushers, play them all.

That wasn’t an exact Mike Tomlin quote but it was the essence of what he said Tuesday afternoon. With impressive performances from all three of his outside linebackers: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Tomlin isn’t worried about exact snap counts. So long as they kept producing pressure and sacks, the nitty-gritty doesn’t matter.

“We’re not going to be a slave to snap distribution,” Tomlin told reporters Tuesday. “I’m not going to be coming in here every week explaining to you guys why the three guys got the snaps that they got. It’s our job to keep all three men fresh and engaged and in position to make plays for us. That’s what we intended to do. That’s how it unfolded. And that’ll be our mentality moving forward. So I won’t come in here week in and week out and explain the distribution of snaps as it pertains to those three men.”

Allow us, for a moment, to explain the snap counts. Here are the totals from Week 1 out of 78, non-penalty snaps.

T.J. Watt: 65
Melvin Ingram: 52
Alex Highsmith: 39

So much for Watt not being in good enough football shape. But all three guys rotated and took time to catch their breath on the sideline. That allowed each man to be fresh when they took the field. And they played liked it, overwhelming a normally good set of Bills’ offensive tackles to the tune of six QB hits, two sacks, and countless holding calls.

It has the potential to be the best pass rush trio in football if it’s not already. And it making fans quickly forget about Bud Dupree, who cashed in with the Tennessee Titans this offseason.

No matter the snap count, Tomlin’s looking forward to his three EDGE guys doing the same damage going forward.

“They’re all varsity. They’re all going to be significant. We’re excited. We got all three of them and we intend to utilize all three of them. And maybe from time to time, all three at once, if the situation allots for it.”

The three-OLB wrinkle would be an interesting one. Last year, it was mostly reserved for run-heavy teams like Baltimore, subbing out SS Terrell Edmunds for the third EDGE rusher. But with Stephon Tuitt out, it may open up some new opportunities for Pittsburgh to get their best pass rushers on the field.

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