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Which Steelers defenders were picked on the most in coverage in 2022?

Looking at targets is one thing, but comparing them to snaps played in coverage shows even more.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

On the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I decided I wanted to look more in depth at some of the advanced stats on defense when it came to passing. Being asked the previous week about coverage of the inside linebackers, when I talked about completions versus targets I felt it was somewhat empty because it really comes down to how often a player has a pass thrown their way compared to how often they are on the field in passing situations.

In order to answer this question, I decided to mix information coming from two different sources. Pro Football Focus (PFF) gives a snap breakdown of each player on defense as to if they are defending the run, in coverage, or rushing the passer. Based on the coverage snaps from PFF, I then calculated percentages of targets and completions based on the statistic from Pro Football Reference (PFR).

So here are the numbers for every Steelers defender from 2022 who played at least 100 snaps in coverage. Players are listed in order of the number of coverage snaps and also have the times they were targeted, completions surrendered, and percentages for both completions per target, targets per coverage snap, and completions per coverage snap.

Cam Sutton

Coverage snaps: 569
Targets: 73
Completions: 35
Completions per target: 47.9%
Targets per coverage snap: 12.8%
Completions per coverage snap: 6.15%

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Coverage snaps: 559
Targets: 54
Completions: 33
Completions per target: 61.1%
Targets per coverage snap: 9.66%
Completions per coverage snap: 5.90%

Terrell Edmunds

Coverage snaps: 514
Targets: 33
Completions: 20
Completions per target: 60.6%
Targets per coverage snap: 6.42%
Completions per coverage snap: 3.89%

Levi Wallace

Coverage snaps: 456
Targets: 77
Completions: 41
Completions per target: 53.2%
Targets per coverage snap: 16.9%
Completions per coverage snap: 8.99%

Myles Jack

Coverage snaps: 351
Targets: 55
Completions: 42
Completions per target: 76.4%
Targets per coverage snap: 15.7%
Completions per coverage snap: 12.0%

Robert Spillane

Coverage snaps: 330
Targets: 43
Completions: 36
Completions per target: 83.7%
Targets per coverage snap: 13.0%
Completions per coverage snap: 10.9%

Devin Bush

Coverage snaps: 329
Targets: 38
Completions: 28
Completions per target: 73.7%
Targets per coverage snap: 11.6%
Completions per coverage snap: 8.51%

Arthur Maulet

Coverage snaps: 301
Targets: 39
Completions: 24
Completions per target: 61.5%
Targets per coverage snap: 13.0%
Completions per coverage snap: 7.97%

Damontae Kazee

Coverage snaps: 193
Targets: 11
Completions: 7
Completions per target: 63.6%
Targets per coverage snap: 5.70%
Completions per coverage snap: 3.63%

James Pierre

Coverage snaps: 187
Targets: 31
Completions: 13
Completions per target: 41.9%
Targets per coverage snap: 16.6%
Completions per coverage snap: 6.95%

Tre Norwood

Coverage snaps: 172
Targets: 20
Completions: 10
Completions per target: 50.0%
Targets per coverage snap: 11.6%
Completions per coverage snap: 5.81%

Ahkello Witherspoon

Coverage snaps: 162
Targets: 29
Completions: 22
Completions per target: 75.9%
Targets per coverage snap: 17.9%
Completions per coverage snap: 13.6%

Based on this information, it is fairly clear the Steelers safeties are not targeted nearly as often as the cornerbacks. While this could be for any number of reasons, the most likely candidate is their usage in pass defense. If the safety is playing deep help over the middle, chances are they will be targeted less often than other players.

Another thing that stands out from these numbers is how the linebacker position is targeted more often than others. Once again, there is likely a reasonable explanation for this. If a player was truly that great in coverage, chances are they would be playing in the secondary rather than at linebacker. Getting a linebacker in an unfavorable matchup is often the goal of an offense because they are typically not as good at defending the pass. Additionally, when the quarterback checks down to a receiver behind or around the line of scrimmage, most often the closest defender is a linebacker who gets credited for the completion.

On the second half of the show, I took it a step further and looked at these numbers from last season for players who have been added to the Steelers during free agency in 2023.

Patrick Peterson

Coverage snaps: 695
Targets: 89
Completions: 53
Completions per target: 59.6%
Targets per coverage snap: 12.8%
Completions per coverage snap: 7.63%

Elandon Roberts

Coverage snaps: 320
Targets: 35
Completions: 28
Completions per target: 80.0%
Targets per coverage snap: 10.9%
Completions per coverage snap: 8.75%

Keanu Neal

Coverage snaps: 317
Targets: 28
Completions: 21
Completions per target: 75.0%
Targets per coverage snap: 8.83%
Completions per coverage snap: 6.62%

Cole Holcomb

Coverage snaps: 252
Targets: 22
Completions: 16
Completions per target: 72.7%
Targets per coverage snap: 8.73%
Completions per coverage snap: 6.35%

Tanner Muse

Coverage snaps: 37
Targets: 5
Completions: 2
Completions per target: 40.0%
Targets per coverage snap: 13.5%
Completions per coverage snap: 5.41%

It should be noted that Tanner Muse came in well under the 100 coverage snaps that I used for the Steelers, but with him being a new player I felt his information should be shared. Additionally, Cole Holcomb only played in seven games last season before leaning on the Reserve/Injured List. To get a better idea of him in coverage, here are his numbers from 2021:

Cole Holcomb (2021)

Coverage snaps: 587
Targets: 81
Completions: 60
Completions per target: 74.1%
Targets per coverage snap: 13.8%
Completions per coverage snap: 10.2%

Exactly what can be drawn as a conclusion from these numbers I am leaving open for anyone who wants to break them down. Is there anything that stands out about the targets per coverage snap or completions per coverage snap with the players listed above? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The entire Steelers Stat Geek podcast can be heard in the player below: