Throughout Sunday’s 27-19 win over the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field, the Pittsburgh Steelers experimented quite a bit defensively, specifically in its dime defense, without Cam Sutton on the field as the veteran cornerback was inactive Sunday with an injury.
Against the Broncos, guys like Robert Spillane, Tre Norwood, Arthur Maulet, and even the practice squad elevated Karl Joseph saw the field in dime, allowing the Steelers to try and spread the work around, as head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game in regards to some of the personnel in the sub-package.
“Dime personnel defensively, we were just spreading Cam Sutton’s work around among a group of people as opposed to putting it on one person,” Tomlin said following the win in his official press conference, according to Steelers.com. “Um, when you’re playing with some guys that are working in expanded roles that still have their special teams responsibility, for example, it’s good to kind of spread the workload. And that’s simply what we were doing, leaning on the individual strengths in terms of their style of play, but just largely spreading the work around in an effort to minimize the absence of Cam Sutton.”
The Steelers certainly did just that, working in at least four different guys into the mix on Sunday, allowing them to not only provide different looks to the Broncos’ offense, but keep guys fresh and playing to their strengths, as Tomlin stated.
It’s hard to state just how impactful the multiple substitutions and rotations in dime were for the Steelers, but Pittsburgh was able to hold the Broncos to just 2-for-12 on third downs, though the Broncos were 3-for-4 on fourth downs.
“It was collective; you know, it was rush and coverage,” Tomlin said. “They were committed to protecting their passer. The running back and the tight end was in a bunch on third down, but we didn’t mind that because Fant is protecting and he’s not running routes. And we were okay with that. But it was a combination of both and largely it had to do with because of how they chose to play. They were trying to neutralize our four-man rush with tight ends and running backs. And so that gave me an advantage in the routes, if you will, seven versus three vertical runners. And so we were able to win a lot of those possession downs.”
It’s good to know that the Steelers have some depth and experience in certain areas to handle dime duties, should Sutton miss Week 6, or another key defensive back go down with an injury at any point in the season.