One thing I love analyzing about pro football is the makeup of victories and losses. Like a chess game, which pieces are coaches utilizing in their game plan, with the best intentions of winning?
Following a bye week, I was fairly excited to know that most of the Pittsburgh Steelers team was still intact. The only inactive that may have raised eyebrows was linebacker James Harrison, who sat out of practice with a back injury and was ruled out of the game at the end of the week.
Otherwise, surprises were few and far between in a 20-17 win over the Colts. It appeared, at first, that TE Vance McDonald could out snap Jesse James for the first time this season, before coming up limping on a play in the first half. McDonald would return and play 30 snaps to James' 45. Xavier Grimble, the third-string tight end, would only see the field for four snaps while McDonald shook off the cobwebs.
Many of the usual suspects played a full or near-full game, including Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and the starting offensive linemen. Some would be curious to know that Martavis Bryant, who previously complained about his lack of opportunity, remained in the same low-to-mid 30 snap count range (37 on Sunday). That matched his previous playing time in weeks six and seven.
JuJu Smith-Schuster neared his higher playing totals of the season, getting 80% of the share; 16 more snaps than Bryant.
James Conner was the recipient of one carry when his name was called for his only rep of the game. (And he made it count too!)
On defense, a healthy Stephon Tuitt saw little rotation with Tyson Alualu. Tuitt would play a little over 80% of the defense's snaps, as did Cameron Heyward. Javon Hargrave inched toward about half of the snaps, his usual.
Ryan Shazier, Sean Davis, and Artie Burns all played a full game. Robert Golden subbed for Mike Mitchell, who left the game with an injury. Mitchell saw 37 of the Steelers 59 defensive snaps while Golden played 23. The odd man out: J.J. Wilcox, who didn't enter the game as a backup safety, which appears to be a trend after receiving a healthy amount of playing time in the Steelers first four games of the season.
Wilcox has played three total snaps in the last four games...
Mike Hilton continued to play in half or more of the defense's sub packages, while William Gay was used in dime packages, accounting for 27% of the snaps this week. Gay was tasked with covering Colts TE Jack Doyle for much of the game.