Steeler Playmakers: Touches, Targets & Relative Participation

As I reported in my first post, I've been number-crunching our offensive plays starting from Game 5 versus the Browns.  To date, I have Games 5 to 14 processed, or 10 in total.  (I missed half of the snaps in our triumph over the Panthers due to internet problems, so I won't be able to break our last game down until someone posts a torrent that I can download.)

I've put together an Excel data base that consolidates the information from the Game Books; the marvelous Offensive Participation charts from the Steelers Depot website; and observations of my own.  I was interested in analyzing the "impact" of our offensive playmakers, and thought that some of you may be interested in the results.  We all know that Mike Wallace is explosive and Rashard Mendenhall is our primary back.  But how often have they been on the field?  And how often do they get their hands on the ball when they're out there?  And what about our other playmakers?

[An apology: I can't seem to insert a Jump here no matter how hard I try.  Those of you who read these posts on mobile devises are going to hate me.  If a site Administrator could do so for me, that would be great.]

So here's our first chart, which shows information on our offensive playmakers (the RBs, WRs, TEs and, of course, Big Ben).  We've run 650 offensive snaps during the 10 games I was able to analyze.  We've had 336 pass plays, 285 runs and Big Ben has been sacked 29 times.  Counting the sacks as pass plays, that means that our play selection has been 56 pass / 44 run.


BB7 649 99,8%         23 150 6,5
MM21 178 27,4% 23 20 187 9,4 25 89 3,6
RM34 376 57,8% 26 15 98 6,5 203 762 3,8
IR33 99 15,2% 4 4 45 11,3 30 134 4,5
MW17 613 94,3% 69 44 837 19,0 3 39 13,0
ArB81 3 0,5% 1 0 0 0,0 0 0 0,0
ARE82 179 27,5% 26 14 160 11,4 1 2 2,0
HM83 471 72,5% 39 23 284 12,3 0 0 0,0
ANB84 35 5,4% 12 9 89 9,9 0 0 0,0
DJ85 182 28,0% 5 4 46 11,5 0 0 0,0
HW86 503 77,4% 61 39 508 13,0 0 0 0,0
ES88 308 47,4% 43 24 306 12,8 0 0 0,0
MS89 268 41,2% 18 9 80 8,9 0 0 0,0
OTHERS 9 1,4% 9 N/A N/A N/A 0 N/A N/A
SACK ADJ. 29                
TOTALS 650   336 205 2.640 12,9 285 1.176 4,1

Some notes on the table.  Big Ben's 649 / 650 is not a typo and, no, he didn't miss a play when Suggs broke his nose, but he did stay out one play in Game 13 against the Bengals, in which Randle El took a snap out of the shot-gun formation and Wallace ran a reverse for a 12 yard gain.  "Others" refers to pass plays in which Ben either spiked the ball or had a pass batted away at the line of scrimmage, so it wasn't possible to identify his intended target.  There were 9 instances of "Others" during the ten games.

Participation by Snap:

  • Here we can see that Mike Wallace has been on the field the most, for 614 or 94.5% of our offensive snaps.
  • Heath Miller was actually averaging participation in the mid 90's on snap count until his concussion during Game 12 against the Ravens. The injury kept him out of the last third of that game plus the entirety of Games 13 and 14. Before he was injured, Heath was second only to Wallace in terms of snaps on the field.
  • As many have commented, Emmanuel Sander's participation has shot up since Game 9 against the Patriots. Since Game 10 he's been in for at least half of the snaps in every contest. So his 48% participation during the course of the 10 games analyzed may not immediately illustrate the fact that he's now firmly established himself as our third receiver.
  • Hines' participation is a bit down overall (78%) as a result of the Patriot game concussion.
  • The pecking order of the running backs is clearly evident, from Rashard (58% of all snaps) to MeMo (28%) to BTSC fan favorite Isaac Redman (15%).
  • Matt Spaeth's overall participation has greatly improved during Heath's absence... but remember that he missed two games due to his own concussion.

Pass Play Analysis:

  • Mike Wallace was Ben's favorite target during the 10 game span (69 times out of 336 attempts), and who could blame him? That 19.0 yard per catch stat is eye-popping.
  • Hines is "second best" in all categories: times thrown at, catches made, total yards, yards per catch.
  • Most of MeMo's pass opportunities have come when he has lined up next to Ben in the backfield and was the assigned check-down target. He seems to be better at it that Rashard, since he's been a more successful target (he caught a higher percentage of throws his way) and his average yards per catch is considerably higher. But Redman fans will probably point to the fact that N° 33 has caught all four of the passes Ben has thrown his way (including, of course, the game winner over the Ravens in Baltimore.)
  • Surprisingly, Heath has a low reception-to-target ratio of only 59% (mean he only caught 23 passes vs. 39 times when he was targeted). I was so surprised by this I went back to check out the 16 incompletions and I had taken notes on 12 of them. In my opinion, 6 of them were on Ben for poor throws. 3 were defensed. Only two were dropped. One seemed to be a timing or route problem, since Ben threw one way and Heath ran another.

Run Play Analysis:

  • It won't come as a surprise to anyone that Rashard has the lion's share of our runs: 203 out of a total of 285 attempts in this period.
  • "Saint Redman" didn't receive many opportunities to run the ball during the 10 games, but considering that his job description is supposedly "short yardage situations," it is interesting to see that his YPA is the best of our backs during this period.
  • It goes without saying that most of Big Ben's runs have come when he has had to flee for his life, but he has tried a number of sneaks. There have been at least two times when a play seems to have been designed for him to run (or at least to have the option to take off, which he took). Note that Ben's kneels also count as "run attempts" in the official stats.
  • I'm on record as a MeMo fan, but while he has had a few nifty runs and he did get both of our 2 point conversions against the Patriots on the ground, he hasn't been as effective in terms of YPA as his teammates as a runner.
  • Here's a call-out to Wallace, who once again is the King of YPA, although he's only run three times (and he did so exclusively on reverses).

"Targeting Analysis"

For all I know, I may be re-inventing the wheel here (those more familiar with the advanced stat sites on internet will probably let us know), but I put together a second table that shows total touches (defined as catches + running attempts), total yards per touch, relative targeting ("Target as % of Snaps"+ Touches as % of Snaps") and total targeting ("Target as % Off Plays" + "Adj Target as % Off Plays").

By "relative targeting" I mean: how often was a playmaker targeted when he was on the field?  Let's take the case of Antonio Brown to illustrate this point.  During this 10 game span, he was only in for 35 offensive snaps, but he was targeted 34% of the time he was on the field and 26% of the time he had a touch.  The difference between the two?  When he was targeted by Ben but didn't make a catch.  Overall, he was the target on only 2% of our adjusted offensive snaps.

By "Adjusted" I mean when sacks are eliminated, considering that no one is a target on a sack play (well.... no one except Ben, but he's a "target" on a sack play for entirely different reasons....)

SNAPS TOTAL TARGETED TOTAL TOUCHES TOTAL YDS YDS PER TOUCH Target as % Snaps Touches as % Snaps Target as % Plays Adj Target as % Plays
BB7 649 23 23 150 6,5 3,5% 3,5% 3,5% 3,7%
MM21 178 48 45 276 6,1 27,0% 25,3% 7,4% 7,7%
RM34 376 229 218 860 3,9 60,9% 58,0% 35,2% 36,9%
IR33 99 34 34 179 5,3 34,3% 34,3% 5,2% 5,5%
MW17 613 72 47 876 18,6 11,7% 7,7% 11,1% 11,6%
ArB81 3 1 0 0 0,0 33,3% 0,0% 0,2% 0,2%
ARE82 179 27 15 162 10,8 15,1% 8,4% 4,2% 4,3%
HM83 471 39 23 284 12,3 8,3% 4,9% 6,0% 6,3%
ANB84 35 12 9 89 9,9 34,3% 25,7% 1,8% 1,9%
DJ85 182 5 4 46 11,5 2,7% 2,2% 0,8% 0,8%
HW86 503 61 39 508 13,0 12,1% 7,8% 9,4% 9,8%
ES88 308 43 24 306 12,8 14,0% 7,8% 6,6% 6,9%
MS89 268 18 9 80 8,9 6,7% 3,4% 2,8% 2,9%
OTHERS 9 9 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1,4% 1,4%
SACK ADJ. 29             4,5%  
TOTALS 650 621 490 3.816 7,8     100,0% 100,0%
  • During the 10 game span, the single most important offensive weapon on our team in terms of touches was Rashard. When we exclude the sacks, he either ran or received a pass on 37% of our 621 non-sack plays. And he was "targeted" 61% of the time that he was on the field, i.e. either ran or was the intended receiver. Now that's a workhorse. I've seen a few comments on BTSC alluding to how we use "use Mendenhall more." I dunno. He looks pretty involved in our offense to me.
  • Watch out for Emmanuel Sanders: even though during the 10 games he only was the target in 6.9% of the adjusted offensive plays, he was the target for an impressive 19% of our plays during the outing against the Jets. In recent weeks Manny's importance as a playmaker has increased considerably, and will no doubt continue to rise over time.
  • Isaac Redman was only in for 99 snaps (15% of the total), but 34% of the time that he was in he got a touch. Over the course of the games analyzed, though, he was "the man" less than 6% of the time.
  • MeMo was the 4th most used "weapon" on the team, getting 7.7% of the touches on plays that didn't end in a sack. As we saw, he has been more effective as a receiver than a runner so far.
  • Once again it was Heath that surprised me the most. I was surprised to see how relatively infrequently he had a touch, because you always hear how he's one of Ben's favorite "safety blankets." And yet he was targeted 8.3% of the time he was on the field, and overall he was targeted on only 6.3% of our adjusted offensive plays (when sacks are stripped out).

On the other hand, the true measure of a playmaker is not how many times he gets his hands on the ball... but rather what he does with it when he has it.  We'll never know, of course, but I tend to think that Heath Miller would have caught one of the last two incompletions that Ben threw into the end zone during the final 9 seconds against the Jets... Plus Heath is a great blocker.

Well, I've probably gone on long enough (I am clearly a disciple of the Momma Rollett school of prose, at least in terms of length, though probably not in terms of wit), so I'll wrap up now. Any and all comments are appreciated.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.