The Steelers snapped their losing streak with a close win over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, dnd they did it with a hodge podge of replacement defenders on defense and two quarterbacks on offense. The Steelers again embodied Mike Tomlin’s “Next Man Up” mantra and pulled out a win when the injury report was against them.
Let’s take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers snap counts from Week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Steelers offensive line continues to play together and play well, Mason Cole was the only starter to miss a snap, and he only missed one. The Steelers ran Trenton Scott out for 2 snaps as an extra lineman as well.
The Steelers went back to a heavily three wide receiver-based offense with Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and George Pickens all playing over 80% of snaps. With Steven Sims and Myles Boykin adding ten snaps the Steelers averaged 2.8 wide receivers per snap. Najee Harris dropped to 69% of snaps, giving Jaylen Warren 31%. That’s a nice distribution to try and reduce the load on Harris as he tries to get back to the form and impact he had in his rookie year.
Rookie Connor Heyward played the most snaps of his career this week with Pat Freiermuth out. The young tight end not only played more snaps than he had in the first 5 games combined he also had the longest offensive play of the game with his 45-yard reception in the 4th quarter that set up the Steelers final touchdown of the game.
I haven’t mentioned Special Teams much this season, but Derek Watt, Myles Boykin, Connor Heyward and Benny Snell have been very valuable on special teams, even if they offer less value on offense. They are four of the top six players in special teams snaps and are a big part of the Steelers success covering kicks this season.
Terrell Edmunds returned and played every snap on defense, leading the Steelers in tackles and adding one of the Steelers four tackles for a loss (TFL). Tre Norwood missed only one snap filling in for Minkah Fitzpatrick after playing every snap in Week 5 while filling in for Terrell Edmunds. With Damontae Kazee still out, the Steelers have a clear three-man safety room and it is impressive to see the second-year defensive back being able to play either safety role. He isn’t the safety you want starting, but he’s been a very nice player to find with a 7th round pick.
James Pierre stepped up from his role as ST ace to starting outside corner, and he did much better than his tenure in that role in 2021. Pierre was a big part of the job the Steelers did limiting Mike Evans. His physicality did result in some penalties, but that’s the gamble you have to take to match physicality with Evans.
Josh Jackson went from practice squad to starter and played well, it’s hard to judge him much before the All-22 film comes out, but he seemed to do well, and Arthur Maulet played the second highest number of snaps he has played as a Steeler, only behind the Week 5 matchup with the Bills.
Overall the big story on defense was this patchwork defensive back group coming together to limit Tom Brady and the Buccaneers talented receivers enough to set the Steelers up for a win.
The inside and outside linebackers continue the trend we’ve seen the last few weeks, with outside linebackers averaging 1.6 snaps per play and inside backers averaging more than 2 per snap. It used to be a guarantee every week you would see two OLBs and you could count the dime snaps by how many snaps the inside backers were short of averaging two per snap. Now the Steelers are using defensive lineman on the edge with Watt out and playing their three inside linebackers together more.
It had been DeMarvin Leal playing the majority of those edge snaps as a defensive lineman, but with Leal on Injured Reserve, that role fell to Chris Wormley a good bit, and he played well in that role. Wormley is a much better big edge than interior lineman against the run, and he recorded a tackle for a loss when Tampa Bay tried to block him with a tight end. Among the players making their defensive debut for the 2022 Steelers was Isaiahh Loudermilk, who went from inactive to the Steelers No. 4 defensive lineman, in front of Tyson Alualu and Montravius Adams.
Lastly, I always find it interesting when the Steelers snap counts end up a player short, and this week the Steelers put ten men on the field on a first and goal at the three-yard line and managed to stop Leonard Fournette at the one-yard line. That drive ended with a field goal. On a day when things had to go right for the Steelers, not getting burned there was a difference between winning and losing.