In 2015, there was a lot of talk on a weekly basis surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers and their defensive rotations. Mike Tomlin would talk about spelling Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt along the defensive line, as well as the ongoing outside linebacker rotation with Bud Dupree, Arthur Moats, James Harrison and Jarvis Jones. However, after all that lip service, things rarely changed.
Fast forward to 2016, and for once the team achieved some semblance of a rotation, in regards to snap counts. The two positions which are most commonly discussed are at both of the aforementioned positions: defensive line and outside linebacker. In the team's Week 1 win over the Washington Redskins, they did a good job rotating players to keep everyone as fresh as possible.
At outside linebacker, Arthur Moats played in 33 defensive snaps and Jarvis Jones saw 42 defensive snaps, while the team's backups also saw double-digit snap totals. Anthony Chickillo played in 15 snaps, while James Harrison played in 26.
You might be wondering how the right side OLBs played more total snaps than the left, and that would result in the Steelers ongoing use of subpackaged which don't have the standard four linebackers on the field. There were times when Harrison lined up as an inside linebacker and other players flexed to the edge. The team relied on Jones, Harrison and Moats as their linebacker anchors, all while keeping the players fresh.
Along the defensive line it was Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt who consistently played nearly every snap in 2015. Although capable, the hope is to help spell those players from time-to-time, and they were able to do that on Monday night. Heyward played in 43 defensive plays and Tuitt added 47 to his record, but the backup Ricardo Mathews saw double-digit snaps with 16. Even at nose tackle, the team played rookie Javon Hargrave (13) and Daniel McCullers (10) nearly the same amount of plays.
The Steelers likely used this rotation to keep everyone fresh in the season opener, but it also shows an ability and trust from the coaching staff to the players to go out and execute the game plan, regardless of your title of a "starter" or not.
See the complete list of snap totals below:
Steelers Snap Counts
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