The Pittsburgh Steelers once again left Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati with a victory, following a 23-20 battle Monday night. With injuries and suspensions starting to pile up as the season goes deeper, there were several adjustments made in regard to whom received playing time Monday.
There were few changes offensively for the Steelers, as the usual suspects carried the bulk of the load. The offensive line remained in for the entire game, as did Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.
Le'Veon Bell came out for a total of three snaps for James Conner, who made his presence felt with what little chances he had. Conner carried the ball all three times he entered the game, for 12 yards.
JuJu Smith-Schuster returned after a game off due to injury, which cut into Eli Rogers playing time. As expected, JuJu saw 82% of the offensive snaps while Rogers dropped from 74% a week earlier to 26% Monday. I would assume with JuJu suspended this upcoming Sunday, Rogers could see another uptick in playing time. The same could be said for Martavis Bryant, who appears to have become more of a focus on the Steelers offense, but saw his snaps drop 16% against the Bengals.
The defensive playing time was in shambles due to several injuries, including the in-game loss of LB Ryan Shazier, who has nearly played every snap of the 2017 season. He was replaced by Tyler Matakevich, who played 64% of the game following Shazier's three snaps. Matakevich would also leave the field and not return, making way for L.J. Fort's 27% of playing time.
S Mike Mitchell was ruled out of the game, which caused a shakeup in the secondary. S Robert Golden played a full game for the second time this season. Slot corner Mike Hilton had his usual role (67%) but the difference Monday came in the benching of Coty Sensabaugh, who played 40 of the Steelers 64 defensive snaps: all in the first half.
Third round pick Cameron Sutton made his debut for Sensabaugh, grabbing the remaining 24 snaps in the second half, as the Steelers offense and defense clamped down on time of possession.
The front seven were their usual mix of reps, considering the amount of time the Steelers D was on the field in the first half. Outside linebackers Anthony Chickillo (16%) and Arthur Moats (16%) saw their most usage since the Thursday night victory over the Titans (which makes sense, since that game was on a short week).
Vince Williams also came close to a season-high in playing time due to the number of defensive snaps and Shazier's absence. Though it appeared William Gay may have seen more snaps, it was only his impact which was greater in a time of need. Gay's playing time actually dropped by a few snaps of his season average, playing 20% of the game.
Moving forward I believe we will see a similar share of playing time with injuries and suspensions in effect. Ryan Shazier's status is up in the air, Joe Haden still isn't ready to return, and Marcus Gilbert along with JuJu Smith-Schuster are suspended for Sunday's game against Baltimore.
Several other Steelers, including Vance McDonald and Mike Mitchell, will need to practice this week in order to make their comebacks Sunday night as well. Otherwise, expect Xavier Grimble and Robert Golden to once again share the load in their absence.