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Steelers 2022 Defensive Charting – First Eight Games

With the bye and the midway point of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season, we’ll revisit our weekly defensive charting and pull out the numbers on the season. Going through personnel groupings, blitz rates, target numbers, all the things we’ve tracked over the years to be able to compare and contrast.

– Excluding no plays and kneeldowns, the Steelers’ defense has been on the field for 529 snaps. They’re on pace for 1123 this season. Still a lot but the good news is after the first month, they were on pace for 1258 snaps and averaging 74 per game, skewed by the Week One overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals. Now, they’re averaging just more than 66 snaps per game. So it’s normalized. Here’s how it stacks up to recent years.

2022: 1123 (66.1 per game)* 
2021:
 1108 snaps (65.2 per game)
2020: 992 snaps (62 per game)
2019: 
1067 snaps (66.7 per game)
2018: 1021 snaps (63.8 per game)
2017: 979 snaps (61.2 per game)
2016: 1040 snaps (65.0 per game)
2015: 1102 snaps (68.9 per game)

*on pace for

– Here are the personnel groupings in a broader sense.

Nickel: 39.3% (208 snaps)
3-4: 23.1% (122 snaps)
3-3-5: 22.7% (120 snaps)
Dime: 12.7% (67 snaps)
3-5: 1.7% (9 snaps)
Goal Line: 0.4% (2 snaps)
4-3: 0.2% (1 snap)

– “True” nickel, 2-4-5, down about six points since the first quarter of the year while 3-3-5 and base have ticked up, basically replacing those six points. Dime hasn’t been used much but Pittsburgh playing from behind and being limited by some secondary injuries have curtailed that grouping.

– Overall, here are the base/sub groupings. “Sub” includes nickel, 3-3-5, and dime. Base includes 3-4, 3-5, and 4-3. This will exclude the goal line snap because it doesn’t fit into either.

Sub-packages: 75.0%
Base: 25.0%

– Clean split here. Sub 3/4 of the time, base 1/4 of the time. Compare that to last year when they were in sub just 64.4% of the time. Granted, I am including 3-3-5 as sub since it has five DBs but it does have three defensive linemen, a best of both worlds attempt.

Now, this doesn’t account for all the particulars of each packages. The Steelers have run a three inside linebacker package this season following T.J. Watt’s injury, a way to get Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane on the field at the same time. That’s been used 53 times 12.2% of the time since Week 2. But it wasn’t employed until Week 4 and since then, it’s been used 17.7% of the time. Expect that number to nosedive with Watt returning in Week Ten.

– Any variation of their “over’ front has been used 13.0% in total on the season.

– Let’s talk blitz rates. On the season, the defense is blitzing 29.2% of the time. That’s up from 25.8% over the first four months and up from last year’s number of 26.1%. Here’s the weekly blitz total.

Week 1 – 21.0%
Week 2 – 25%
Week 3 – 40%
Week 4 – 22.9%
Week 5 – 62.5%
Week 6 – 17.1%
Week 7 – 11.1%
Week 8 – 51.7%

Steelers very much a blitz or not team the last four weeks. Blitzed the heck out of mobile QBs in Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts, played off against Tom Brady and Tua Tagovailoa (who of course, is mobile but has fewer designed runs than Allen/Hurts).

– They have sent 5+ rushes 25.2% of the time this season. That’s up from 22.1% over the first four games and an increase over last year’s mark of 22.7%.

Here are the positional group numbers:

Defensive Line

Pressures

Cam Heyward: 12
Larry Ogunjobi: 7
Chris Wormley: 6
Tyson Alualu: 3
Montravius Adams: 1
Carlos Davis: 1
DeMarvin Leal: 1
Isaiahh Loudermilk: 0

Snaps per pressure. Lower the number, the better.

Davis: 7
Heyward: 19.7
Wormley: 22.3
Ogunjobi: 23.7
Leal: 26
Alualu: 32.7
Adams: 67

Heyward was at 13.0 last year so his number was fallen off a bit. Davis has a very limited sample size so don’t take much stock into that figure. Adams has been an ineffective pass rusher after doing well last year.

– Yards per carry against when on the field.

Ogunjobi: 3.7
Heyward 4.0
Adams: 4.1
Alualu: 4.3
Wormley: 4.7

Linebackers

Pressures

Alex Highsmith: 17
Malik Reed: 7
T.J. Watt: 2

Reed has six of his seven pressures since Week 4 so he’s come on stronger as he’s gotten more comfortable in the defense.

Snaps per pressure

Highsmith: 15.9
Watt: 20.5
Reed: 24.9

– By comparison, Highsmith had a 16.1 pressure/snap rate last season. He’s cooled off a bit after the first month, facing two good left tackles the last two games against Miami and Philadelphia.

– Coverage rates:

Highsmith: 6.9%
Reed: 9.8%

Target Numbers

Robert Spillane: 8/12 101 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Devin Bush: 9/16 126 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Myles Jack: 21/28 129 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs

QB Rating Against

Bush: 81.8
Jack: 83.9
Spillane: 92.7

Secondary

– Target numbers:

Josh Jackson: 5/7 60 yards 1 TD 0 INTs
Tre Norwood: 5/12 66 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Arthur Maulet: 10/13 223 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Terrell Edmunds: 5/13 95 yards 3 TD 0 INTs
Minkah Fitzpatrick: 4/14 118 yards 2 TDs 3 INTs
James Pierre: 6/14 51 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs
Ahkello Witherspoon: 19/25 238 yards 4 TDs 1 INT
Cam Sutton: 13/28 165 yards 3 TDs 2 INTs
Levi Wallace: 17/31 275 yards 1 TD 1 INT

QB Rating Against

James Pierre: 53.0
Tre Norwood: 59.7
Minkah Fitzpatrick: 62.2
Cam Sutton: 71.3
Levi Wallace: 82.1
Terrell Edmunds: 104.2
Arthur Maulet: 118.3
Ahkello Witherspoon: 128.0
Josh Jackson: 136.9

The kids, Pierre (third-year) and Norwood (second-year) with the best ratings against. Fitzpatrick and Edmunds have weird numbers this year. Low completion percentages, a couple of long touchdowns, though Fitzpatrick has the turnovers.

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