During his press conference today, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin talked about the team limiting the snaps of some of their defensive lineman and linebackers. Austin said it’s not because of age injury, but rather a byproduct of the depth that the Steelers have this year.
“I don’t think it’s age, I think it’s just that we have really good depth. We were thinking that all through camp, coming out in this state and coming out healthy that we had a really good, deep D-line, and that we would be able to give guys breaks so that we’re fresh and healthy down the end. That’s why I think when you looked at us in the way we played, we played hard and we got after it all up until play 102 or whatever it was. I think that was just a testament to the depth that we have and the quality of players we have up front,” Austin said via official transcript provided by the team.
“It’s a 17-game season and you want to make sure that you develop that depth behind guys, because we know guys like T.J. and Alex, the way they play, they play hard so it’s hard for them to play every play. Same thing with the inside guys. You’ve got to develop quality depth and I think we have.”
Pittsburgh’s depth on the defensive line is evident just by the fact it kept seven guys on the 53-man roster this year. Behind starters Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu and Larry Ogunjobi, the team also features Montravius Adams, Chris Wormley, DeMarvin Leal and Isaiahh Loudermilk (who was a gameday inactive on Sunday).
Being able to rotate those guys in and out and keep the starters fresh late in games is important, but it’s even better when you can do it without a significant drop-off. If Pittsburgh doesn’t see a major drop from the play of say, Ogunjobi to Wormley, there could be more rotations throughout the game in order to keep the starter fresh at the end of the game.
At outside linebacker, both Malik Reed and Jamir Jones got defensive snaps on Sunday, and with T.J. Watt now at least six weeks, those guys will have to build off that experience to become a bigger part of the defense behind Alex Highsmith, alongside David Anenih, who the team signed off the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad earlier today.
Pittsburgh’s carrying five inside linebackers, but rookie Mark Robinson was inactive on Sunday. Between Myles Jack, Devin Bush and Robert Spillane, Pittsburgh has three guys with legitimate starting experience who all bring different attributes to the role. Being able to have those three guys is important, and Marcus Allen is a veteran behind them who knows his role and is a really good contributor on special teams. Maybe at some point this year, Robinson will force his way into a regular role on Sundays, but I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon.
Regardless, Pittsburgh’s defense really does have impressive depth. While it may lead to reduced snaps for some guys, it serves a purpose as it keeps guys fresh and ready to go late in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line without sacrificing too much talent and ability. Ultimately, Pittsburgh’s depth could be one of their strongest traits, and something that will get even more important as the season rolls along.