The Pittsburgh Steelers defense was far from perfect in the team's 34-27 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 15. The first half saw Brock Osweiler do his best John Elway impersonation as he repeatedly drove the Broncos' offense down the field and scored with ease.
Something changed in the second half, and personnel was certainly one aspect of the change, but what never changes along the Steelers' defensive front are the two bookends at the defensive tackle/end position. Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward have developed into some of the best 3-4 defensive tackles in the NFL, and what is most interesting about these two linemen is they never leave the field.
Heyward played 72 of the teams 77 snaps, and Tuitt played 71. Those are ridiculous numbers and percentages for defensive linemen in today's NFL. Some might point to a lack of depth at the position as to why they rarely leave the field, and they would be right, but they are also arguably two of the best players on the team's defense. Why would you want to take them off?
This speaks more of the duo's dedication and conditioning than anything. Gone are the days of Casey Hampton rumbling on and off the field, in what looked to be in between snacks on the sideline. These players are much leaner, and their play, and the Steelers as a team, are benefiting from them being able to remain on the field for long stretches of time. Would it be better to see them get a few breaks from time to time? Sure, but if it isn't broken, why fix it?
An area of the team which was broken, and some would say still is, would be the team's secondary. In the second half Mike Tomlin and company made a change and played Brandon Boykin over Antwon Blake. Blake still saw the field, but only in specific sub packages. The snap totals show Boykin was only outplayed, from a snaps perspective, by William Gay. Gay played 75 snaps, Boykin 50, Blake 44 and Ross Cockrell 44.
It could be a changing of the guard in the team's secondary, and better late than never for such a change to occur.
For the rest of the Steelers snap totals, see the chart below courtesy of Pro-Football Reference.
(Editor's Note: Jarvis Jones is listed as Jacoby Jones.)
Steelers Snap Counts