The Steelers lost to the Bengals in embarrassing fashion on Sunday, and there is plenty of blame to be spread around from coaches to players to guys sitting on the bench. Heck, you could probably blame the parking attendants and hot dog vendors too. But let’s take a look at who was actually on the field for the Steelers latest debacle.
The offensive line saw two more players go down, with Joe Haeg coming in for Chukwuma Okorafor and J.C. Hassenauer come in for Kendrick Green. While it is easy to say that it doesn’t matter, the line stunk no matter who was playing, lack of depth is never a good thing on an offensive line. Continuity is the main way to improve line play and there was at least some disruption there again. A line that got very little time together in preseason is now seeing multiple changes. It’s just adding more bad to the pile.
Benny Snell got 4 snaps this week, but at least this time the Steelers didn’t let him touch the football when he was in. Najee Harris is still struggling with his job of breaking 14 tackles before crossing the line of scrimmage, but he’s seen his runs for negative yards drop each week from 3 in Week 1, to 2 against the Raiders and then only 1 run for a loss this week. That’s something.
With Diontae Johnson out and JuJu Smith-Schuster leaving with injury, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud got serious bumps in snaps and Cody White even got to play for 9 snaps. Eric Ebron led the tight ends in snaps and the cries for more Derek Watt were answered this week, but it didn’t give the run game the boost many fans were hoping for and he only got 7 snaps. Meanwhile Najee Harris became the #1 target for Ben Roethlisberger as he set a new Steelers rookie record with 14 catches in a game, only Antonio Brown has ever had more receptions in a game, and he only did it twice.
Melvin Ingram makes an incredibly rare appearance in the 100% club as an outside linebacker, something T.J. Watt has never done and Bud Dupree only accomplished three times with the Steelers. It’s not a good sign. Also in unusually high snap counts we find Chris Wormley at 91% and Cameron Heyward at 89% of snaps.
The high percentages are offset by the low number of total snaps the defense was on the field for. While 89% of snaps is on the high side for Cameron Heyward, his 42 total snaps played is one of the lower numbers for him anytime he was available all game.
More interesting is Terrell Edmunds snap count. The Steelers strong safety was off the field for 10 snaps, a significant portion of a game in which he recorded an interception. And while that interception was on a deflection, it is the only interception the Steelers have this season.
It also stands out that while Jamir Jones started the game, Derrek Tuszka was the #2 outside linebacker by snap count. Early in the game the Bengals were scheming to get an outside linebacker in coverage, because the Steelers weren’t going to drop Jamir Jones in coverage and that allowed them to take Melvin Ingram out of the pass rush. It will require a more thorough look at the film, but my first thought would be they used Tuszka to be that guy so Ingram could rush the quarterback more.
From quick number breakdowns we can also surmise that Isaiah Buggs and Henry Mondeaux were used as nose tackles in 3-4 sets and Isaiahh Loudermilk was rotating in for Heyward and Wormley, albeit for a total of 9 snaps.
It is starting to be a valid question if the injury list for the Steelers would form a better team than the players left on the field. I’d take the Steelers injury report on the front line over the one we currently have at least. . . Hopefully we get some good news this week on the injury report and the Steelers can start fielding a more talented defense the rest of the season.