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.
With rumors swirling around Antonio Brown’s absence from Sunday’s game, a number of other changes were made on both sides of the football in the Steelers narrow victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Let’s have a look as to how Pittsburgh adjusted due to absences and injuries.
With AB out, it wasn’t JuJu Smith-Schuster who saw more playing time than in recent weeks, but others who benefitted from the availability of snaps. JuJu continued to play a large amount of the game as per usual, but it was Eli Rogers and James Washington who stepped up in Brown’s absence.
Tight ends Vance McDonald and Jesse James saw an uptick in playing time as well. The offensive line remained the same, but a notable omission this week was Chukwarma Okorafor, who didn’t enter the game.
James Conner returned to action but was held to a pitch count, seeing less than half of the offensive snaps. Jaylen Samuels saw the remaining snaps as the Steelers threw some empty sets (no running backs, all receiver plays) into the mix.
The biggest surprise of the evening may have been Xavier Grimble's playing time, which continued to hover just below that of Jesse James: the former being used more to block on plays than the latter (who has struggled with run blocking and pass protection over the years.)
I'm none too surprised by the Steelers secondary having full participation in games, as that's par for the course. Who played a full game is a bit more intriguing.
Jordan Dangerfield, who previously played 24 defensive snaps the entire season came into Week 17 and played the full 49 defensive plays against the Bengals.
L.J. Fort, an afterthought when the season began, also played the entire game. Fort replaced an injured Vince Williams, who had only played 80% or more of the defensive plays since Week 6 (with only one of those two instances being more than 90% of the defensive reps.)
That speaks volumes to the staff's trust in Fort and his potential future in Pittsburgh.
LB Jon Bostic fell to an season low six snaps. His playing time fell off of a cliff in December after being one of the brighter spots on the Steelers defense about midway through 2018.
DB Morgan Burnett also saw his second-highest snap count for the 2018 season as the versatile defender plays a vital chess piece in the Steelers defensive game planning. I imagine Burnett's play over the final three weeks is more than enough to see him back in a black and gold uniform for 2019.
Statistics courtesy of the National Football League