The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team in transition in a lot of ways, especially on defense. The youth movement has been ongoing throughout the entire season, but even more now with three rookie defenders seeing significant snaps on a weekly basis.
However, after analyzing the snap totals for their Week 11 win over the Cleveland Browns, I couldn’t help but be left with more questions than answers. Let’s take a look at some of the burning questions.
When will Ladarius Green’s work load increase?
I realize Green is not known for his blocking, is likely still getting into game shape and was on the injury report last week after tweaking his knee against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10. However, he registered just 8 snaps against the Browns. The Steelers deployed Chris Hubbard as a blocking tight end more (12 snaps) than Green. With a team desperately looking for more offensive weapons not named Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, you have to wonder when the governor will be taken off Green and he sees the field more.
That escalated quickly
Last week I wrote about the report of rookie Sean Davis getting more first team snaps in practice. Well, I don’t think anyone saw him playing 100-percent of the snaps in Week 11, but he did. It looks as if Davis has supplanted Robert Golden as the starting strong safety alongside Mike Mitchell. Golden played only 4 defensive snaps when Mitchell left the game briefly. How long Davis keeps the job, well that is to be determined.
About that defensive line depth
I realize the Browns’ offensive line is atrocious, but the Steelers didn’t just rely on Stephon Tuitt the entire game. In fact, the Steelers deployed more defensive linemen than they have all year. Tuitt played 77-percent of the snaps (55), Javon Hargrave 41 snaps, L.T. Walton 22 plays, Ricardo Mathews 20 and Daniel McCullers 16. The rotation they used worked and kept players fresh, but against better competition you have to wonder if Tuitt’s snaps will increase, and who the team will lean on to play opposite him along the line.
About those OLB starters
A lot was made about Jarvis Jones’ “demotion” and James Harrison being named the official starter at right outside linebacker. The excitement for change was understandable, but as predicted, the Steelers continued with a rotation at the outside linebacker position.
Against the Browns Anthony Chickillo led the group with 38 snaps, followed by James Harrison (33), Jarvis Jones (33) and Arthur Moats (27). Bud Dupree played in one defensive snap, and will likely see his workload increase against the Colts on Thursday night. However, expect the Steelers to stick with the hot hand(s) when it comes to what is working against the opposition.
For the full slate of Steelers snap counts, see the chart below, courtesy of Pro-Football Reference.