Several scheme adjustments highlight Steelers win over the Patriots | Steel City Underground

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Pittsburgh Steelers WR Eli Rogers

Each week we’ll take a look at the composition of the Steelers wins and losses (and ties too) by examining the team’s snap counts on offense and defense. Here’s a look at the makeup of last week’s game.

The Steelers finally “slayed the dragon” by defeating their almost yearly nemesis, the New England Patriots, on Sunday.

While many fans and critics alike didn’t think Pittsburgh could pull it off, they did. Now the question is, “How did they do it?”

With the snap counts analyzed below, we can see what components made up the Steelers winning strategy.

Embed from Getty Images


Player Snaps Pct
Foster 64 100%
DeCastro 64 100%
Feiler 64 100%
Villanueva 64 100%
Pouncey 64 100%
Roethlisberger 64 100%
Brown 61 95%
Smith-Schuster 60 94%
Washington 44 69%
Samuels 39 61%
Rogers 28 44%
McDonald 23 36%
James 22 34%
Switzer 21 33%
Grimble 9 14%
Ridley 6 9%
Nix 5 8%
Heyward-Bey 2 3%

Not to be Captain Obvious, but if you haven’t read this series in the past there are a number of players on the offensive side of the ball who never leave the field. Obviously, the top ones are the offensive line and Ben Roethlisberger. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster also flirt with playing a full game, but this was actually JuJu’s highest percentage share of the season.

More surprising from this game may be the amount wide receivers played. Eli Rogers returned from injury and nearly played half of the game, but those snaps didn’t cut into his peers James Washington or Ryan Switzer, who played near their season average.

The casualties from their playing time were the tight ends: Vance McDonald and Jesse James. Both played near their season lows (considering when McDonald played an entire game without injury).

Stevan Ridley has not cut into Jaylen Samuels snap counts – there is no running back by committee in the Steelers backfield, even with James Conner missing his second straight game.


Embed from Getty Images


Player Snaps Pct
Edmunds 62 100%
Haden 62 100%
Davis 62 100%
Watt 60 97%
Williams 59 95%
Sensabaugh 58 94%
Heyward 50 81%
Burnett 48 77%
Tuitt 42 68%
Hilton 38 61%
Chickillo 32 52%
Dupree 30 48%
Hargrave 30 48%
Alualu 16 26%
Bostic 15 24%
Sutton 10 16%
Fort 3 5%
Burns 3 5%
McCullers 2 3%

The much-maligned Artie Burns returned on Sunday… then returned to the bench following the Steelers first series against the Patriots. (He would not come back into the game.)

Morgan Burnett played the most he has since Week 2 against Kansas City, which is his season high (90%).

Bud Dupree’s snap count dropped some, as he got hurt during the game. T.J. Watt, on the other hand, played all but two snaps. On the interior of the defense, the Steelers ignored playing L.J. Fort almost entirely, forgoing an inside linebacker next to Vince Williams at times.

Jon Bostic would play about a quarter of the game, but it would be Williams who would play his most since Week 6: he only had one game between weeks 6 and 15 (this weekend) where he exceeded 80% or more defensive snaps.

Cameron Sutton would also see the field for his first action in over four games with ten snaps: before Sunday he had three reps total in a single game (Week 10) over the Steelers previous six games.


Statistics courtesy of the National Football League

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