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Steelers Week 12 snap counts show a team coming together

It may be too little too late for this season, but the Steelers are starting to play good football.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts have an older, and more decorated roster than the Pittsburgh Steelers, but even with the Colts playing better under new Head Coach Jeff Saturday, the Steelers were the better team on Monday night.


It’s always good to have your offensive line and quarterback playing together consistently, and it has showed in how Kenny Pickett is looking more comfortable maneuvering the pocket and avoiding danger. It also shows well in the stats Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland put up, as each averaged 5 yards a carry for the game. A rare event for both running backs. With Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren currently injured and a short week looming, the Steelers might need Snell and/or McFarland to carry the load against the Falcons.

The Steelers went more tight end heavy this week. Pat Freiermuth played his normal ~70% of snaps, Zach Gentry played half the game and Connor Heyward got a decent number of snaps. The Steelers led for all but 5 minutes of the game, and with their running backs producing, it makes sense that they would focus on running the ball.

With the heavier set the Steelers averaged only 2.5 wide receivers per play, meaning roughly half the game they only played two receivers. Interestingly, in that lower receiver snap situation, the backup receivers played more snaps (55 combined) than George Pickens played (54). Diontae Johnson again led all non-QBs and lineman in offensive snaps, and while he averaged a paltry 6.13 yards per target, that number is the third best mark of his season. Johnson and Kenny Pickett are playing better together, but that’s more an indictment of how poorly they were teaming up before the bye than actual praise. Meanwhile George Pickens recorded 9.5 yards per target, a very good mark that happens to be only the 6th best mark of his 11-game career.

You have to wonder why the Steelers are playing their backup receivers so much, when combined they accounted for 4 targets and 11 yards in this game. Gunner Olszewski’s jet sweep (the only one of the game) gained 9 rushing yards. It’s pretty clear to any team facing the Steelers that the only thing you really need to worry about with these depth receivers is the jet sweep.

For the season, wide receivers not named Pickens, Johnson or Claypool have accounted for 17 targets, 10 receptions and 79 yards. That’s on 285 snaps, more snaps than the three backup running backs have recorded, and those backs have done more as receivers than the backup WRs, recording 154 yards on 21 targets. When backup running backs have almost doubled the receiving output of your depth receivers, your team has a serious problem, because on 50% of the Steelers snaps this week (more in most weeks) the defense has one player they know they can dump their worst defender on and be fine.

On a positive note, Minkah Fitzpatrick played a snap on offense this week. He lost his job as the safety in victory formations to Miles Boykin, and with Boykin out, he got to play that snap again. His record is now 11-0 when he plays at least one snap on offense. I wonder if he can play receiver...


Devin Bush Jr. joins frequent 100% club members Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Sutton, the Robert Spillane injury ending the rotation the Steelers had been using with Bush and Spillane.

An interesting development on the defensive line occurred this week with Montravius Adams playing more snaps than Chris Wormley for the first time this season. Chris Wormley even had an enormous fumble recovery, wrestling the ball away from Colts quarterback Matt Ryan after a botched handoff.

T.J. Watt is off his snap count restriction, playing all but 9 snaps this week, facing a very good right tackle in Braden Smith, and the Colts took great pains to keep him double teamed all game. Watt and the Steelers pass rush didn’t put up many stats, but they did provide a lot of pressure.

The defensive backfield saw several changes throughout the game with James Pierre coming in on nickel and dime plays, moving Cameron Sutton inside early on, and Arthur Maulet playing late in the game, and ended up leading the team in tackles despite only playing 18 snaps on defense.

Damontae Kazee played his third game for the Steelers, and the same as the week before, played as the dime back, played 8 snaps for Terrell Edmunds and only 4 plays involved all three safeties on the field at the same time. Giving more evidence that the signing of Damontae Kazee is just an upgrade on Tre Norwood.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13.