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The Steelers are “dropping dimes” on defense, but will this trend continue vs. the Bears?

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have been using more of their dime defense, and our local stat geek looks at how much they have used their dime defense, and whether the trend could continue in Week 3.

NFL: AFC Divisional-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Since Dick LeBeau left the Pittsburgh Steelers and Keith Butler was promoted as the new defensive coordinator, there have been some changes in the defense. One of those changes in 2017 has been the team’s usage of their dime defensive packages. It isn’t that LeBeau didn’t use the dime, but Butler is certainly deploying his own philosophy with how often and when to use the sub package.

Through the first two weeks of the regular season, the Steelers have deployed their dime defense, especially with Mike Hilton being the first defensive back off the bench, at a pretty high clip, which made me wonder what the actual numbers were regarding their usage of this defensive formation.

So, I put our stat geek (58Steel) on the job, and he did a ridiculously good job finding out some really good stuff on the Steelers defense, especially their dime defense.

  • The Steelers used the dime package on 18 plays vs Vikings. 1 was an offensive penalty, which is therefore not included in the official count. For our purposes, however, we’ll count it; 18/66=27% use of that personnel package by the Steelers in Week 2.
  • Of those 17 official plays, there were 2 runs, 14 pass attempts, 6 completions, 54 yards, 1 sack, and two 1st downs.
  • 14 plays came on possession downs (12 on 3rd down, 2 on 4th down).
  • The dime package was successful on 12/14 snaps.
  • William Gay was used as dimebacker, a cornerback with more linebacker-type responsibilities (replacing Vince Williams), with Mike Hilton as nickel cornerback in every instance.
  • The dime package was used on all but three Vikings 3rd downs (3rd and 2, 1, and 2, respectively).
  • Combining these numbers with Week 1 numbers vs the Browns, here are the dime package results this far:
  • 27/132 plays = 20% usage rate.
  • 27 plays to 22 pass attempts, 11 completions, 90 yards, 2 sacks
  • 4 runs (3 called runs, 1 QB scramble) for 31 yards. No runs resulted in a 1st down.
  • 23 plays on possession downs. 5 resulted in 1st downs (one was result of unnecessary roughness penalty on Will Gay vs. Browns after incomplete pass). Defensive success rate = 78.2%

Hopefully you were able to digest all of that data, because if it shows anything it is not only the success of the dime, which is obvious, but also when and where the Steelers use it.

If the Steelers defense is facing a third down and moderate-to-long distance, the dime has been their go-to package, and with their success rate, why change anything now?

William Gay as the dimebacker is something to keep an eye on for multiple reasons. Many thought the veteran cornerback could play some safety in the twilight of his career, but he could have found his niche with this dime package role as well. Recently acquired J.J. Wilcox is another player who might be able to fill this role, but coverage skills are certainly important in this defensive package on critical possession downs.

Keep an eye for this defensive package in Week 3 vs. the Bears, because it doesn’t seem the Steelers will be abandoning it anytime soon.

Did you just read this article and think to yourself, “What the heck is a dime defense?” then we have you covered there as well. Check out 58Steel’s three-part series regarding the dime defense, how the Steelers use it and how it is built to be effective in these aforementioned situations.

Steelers Dime Defense - Part 1

Steelers Dime Defense - Part 2

Steelers Dime Defense - Part 3